Exhibition accompanies the Jan Karski â€˜s Centenary Celebrations Birthdays in Lodz held under the honorary auspices of the President of the Republic of Poland BronisĹ‚aw Komorowski
Jan Karski. Don’t Let The World Forget Three times he made his way from German occupied Poland to the West to pass on information on the situation in the country. As a liaison between the Polish Underground and the Polish Government-in-Exile, he was at the very centre of resistance movement. Captured and tortured by the Gestapo, he attempted suicide to avoid exposing the Underground to danger. A soldier loyal to the Secret State, highly valued for his honesty, prudence and courage. First and foremost remembered as the one who told the world about the mass murder of the Jews. As the one whom the world did not heed. Who was and who is Jan Karski for us today? A hero? A witness to the gravest crime in history? Or perhaps – a pang of conscience…
People, all of us probably, we have infinite power to do good. And we have infinite power to follow evil. We have a choice. We can choose to be robbers. We can choose to be good people. And our Lord left us the choice. Many people chose evil ÂŤ excerpt from an interview with Jan Karski conducted by Ed Thomas Wood in 1996
I. Coexistence Jan Karski, whose real name was Jan Kozielewski, was born on 24th April 1914 in Łódź as the youngest of Walentyna and Stefan Ignacy Kozielewski’s eight children. His father, whose small leathercraft workshop provided the family with modest means of support, died when Jan was still a little child. The burden of bringing him up was now on the shoulders of his mother, a devout Catholic, and the eldest of his brothers, Marian, a participant in the Polish struggle for independence and Józef Piłsudski’s comrade-in-arms.
Older brother Cyprian Kozielewski and John - as a student of Public School No. 4 in Lodz, at 14 Targowa Street, 1922 10
The cult of this leader, patriotism shaped in relation to that cult and observance of the rules of Catholic faith created the specific atmosphere in which Jan grew up and formed his worldview.
Cyprian, Laura, Marian Kozielewski, 1924 11
Marian and Joseph Kozielewski, 1924
The Kozielewski Family, ca 1918 12
Mother of Jan Karski, 1935 13
pages 12 - 17 Postcards showing Lodz in the first decades of the XX century
Łódź, where Jan was born and grew up, was the second greatest city in Poland, a major industrial centre and a genuine ethnical, cultural and linguistic melting pot.
Besides Poles, it was inhabited by numerous Jewish, German and Russian communities as well as representatives of other European nations in smaller numbers. This coexistence was not free from tension and conflict but, nevertheless, the multitude of customs, languages and appearances found in one place perforce accustomed people to otherness, which could, but did not have to, foster tolerance and openness.
pages: 18 - 19, 20 Lodz in the 1930â€™s, shots from an amateur film by Gustav Eisner, from Lodz, the owner of the New York travel agency 20
From early childhood, Jan moved in Polish and Jewish circles. There were several Jewish families living in the same tenement building as the Kozielewski family did. Jan played with Jewish children in the backyard, they attended the same school. He was taught to respect them by his mother, who uncompromisingly honoured the Christian obligation to love oneâ€™s neighbour regardless of who they were, what they looked like or where they came from.
[Mother] was tolerant towards the Jews. I was very Catholic as a child. [...] In our house, apartment house, ulica Kilińskiego 71, I remember, in the yard by the Fall the Jews would build sort of a house, you know, wood and then some branches… and they pried. They have a name for that…
Sukkot. Yes, Sukkot. Some boys, children, who my mother called “bad boys”, amused themselves. They would sneak, you know, and then would throw over the roof dead rats. And my mother did not like it so she said: “Well, if you are such a good boy and a Catholic, watch that they don’t do it. If somebody comes, don’t fight only shout: Mama, mama! I will take care of them.” And I did watch once or twice. But nobody came. So there was no danger. My mother was very tolerant. She did her influence. I loved her very much.
Holocaust Rescue and Aid Provider, Jan Karski Testimony received by Renee Firestone on 10 March 1995, USC Shoah Foundation Institute
Diploma of the University of Lviv
In 1931 Jan entered the Jan Kazimierz University in Lviv, where he studied Law and Diplomacy. His aspirations towards embarking on a diplomatic career were supported by his brother Marian, a prominent figure in the elite of the Polish state at that time. With his help Jan was able to join Polish diplomatic posts as an intern when he was still a student. This provided him with a chance to learn foreign languages and become acquainted with other cultures. These abilities were soon to decide his fate as the Second World War broke outâ€Ś
John Kozielewski immediately after graduation, in Warsaw, in 1935
In Poland, Janâ€™s student days coincided with growing antiSemitism. Many colleges decided to enforce the rule of numerus clausus under which the Jews could constitute no more than ten percent of all students. So-called bench ghettos were established, forcing Jewish students to take places exclusively in those parts of lecture rooms that were sectioned off for them. Nationalist youth organizations sparked anti-Jewish brawls at universities. Jan did not get involved in them but â€“ which he would be ashamed to admit years later â€“ he did nothing to defend his Jewish friends. 29
I also remember. Well, I then got out of the Jewish community, I probably reacted more nervously to the fact that Polish students beat the Jews and Jewesses. I saw the hideous scenes. [...] Well, I have to be honest and say that I had a friend at the university, he was called Jerzy Lerski, he died recently. A famous activist, a courier, a heroic man. He died about three or four years ago in San Francisco. This Lerski, he fought for Jews. During lectures, nationalist from the Great Polish Camp, pushed Jewish women and Jews against the wall, to the last benches. They were not allowed to sit elsewhere... Well, one day, this Lerski stood up: “If you push them, you will have to push me too... just try.” They smashed his head, he stayed in the hospital for a few weeks. And then, for the rest of his life, they were making fun of him, that he is mad. And I’ve seen it. Well, I was not like that, I was scared. I kept a distance. I am now not at all proud of this fact. I was afraid that they would slash my face, that I would not be attractive. Because I had always been
handsome. I wanted to be so attractive. « “Moje młode lata”, dir. Krzysztof Tadej, TVP 2007
II. War When Nazi Germany invaded Poland on 1st September, Jan – who had been mobilized a few days earlier, like thousands of Polish men – was stationed in horse artillery barracks in Oświęcim. In a few months, the same barracks were to become part of the concentration camp known as Auschwitz…
German soldiers knock down a border post, September 1939 34
Strong resistance of the Polish Army could not stop German forces, which were better armed and used more advanced military strategies, from making fast progress into the country. Ruthless acts of terror were committed against civilians in occupied territories with the express purpose of discouraging people from fighting with the invaders. Polish defeat was sealed when the Red Army entered Poland on 17th September as a result of a secret pact concluded between the Third Reich and the Soviet Union several weeks earlier.
Hitler in the conquered Warsaw, September 1939 35
Meeting of German and Soviet troops in Brest-Litovsk, September 18, 1939
Attacked by its mighty neighbours on two sides, Poland stood no chance. Created by government propaganda, the image of Poland as a military power was totally destroyed when confronted with reality. For Jan and a whole generation of young people brought up to love their country and believe in its strength this was a traumatic experience.
The chief commander of the nineteenth Army Corps, General Guderian, in conversation with a political commissar, Borowenski, on the demarcation line between the German and Soviet armies, September 1939
Dead Polish officers, September 1939
The bodies of the victims of a German air raid on Warsaw, September 1939, photo Julien Bryan
Polish soldiers killed near Burakow, in September 1939
The execution of 22 Jews, September 1939
An attack of German bombers took Jan and his fellow soldiers from the battalion stationed in OĹ›wiÄ™cim by surprise. Horses scattered frightened by explosions. Without them, horse artillery was absolutely incapable of taking any sort of military action. Commanding officers ordered retreat hoping to meet other battalions, regroup and mount a counteroffensive. However, chaos broke out, eastbound roads were teeming with crowds of civilians escaping from the invaders and the confusion was further compounded by continuous German air raids. The chances of returning to combat grew slimmer; the soldiers were now heading towards the border to get to Romania.
Polish military equipment destroyed after the Battle of the Bzura river, September 1939 45
And those crowds, those loathing crowds. I remember that some girls or boys would try to offend me: “Where are you going, why don’t you go the other way and defend us.” They saw that I was wearing a uniform. Shame, disgrace. It all happened so suddenly, I was unprepared. The whole nation was unprepared. « M. Wierzyński, J. Karski “Emisariusz. Własnymi słowami”, Warsaw 2012
What we saw. The horses – the horses are stupid, they have no soul, they have no mind – they didn’t expect it. Broke out of the stables, we couldn’t attach them to the canons seventy five millimetres. The chaos, havoc, disorder. After some two hours we left the horses, we left the canons. We would draw to the East, to the East. Every day further to the East... Wherever we would come – already bombed. Railroad station – bombed. You know, important buildings – bombed. Further, further, to the East. After some two, three, four days we were pushed out of the highway because hundreds of thousands refugees, bicycles, cars, peasant carriages, children, in despair everybody escaping to the East, to the East. So after a few days we were not in any military formation. Everybody
for himself. Sleeping in some stables, peasant stables. What was worse – no rain. Exceptionally good weather. And now imagine: I have a sabre, here I have Leica, unshaved of course, dirty – it was humiliating. I felt my own dirt, I smelt badly – money run out. So the first thing: in some village go to the store. Leica – it is an expensive camera “Astra”. I sold it for food. Sausages, dry sausages etc, etc. I have my sabre, silver sabre... So then I used the food – it must have been perhaps, I don’t know, after ten days, twelve days – again to one of the stores, in peasant area. And I tell the owner: “Listen, this is a relic, the signature of a President of the Republic is on it. When the war ends I will come here, I will pay you whatever you want. If I am killed you will sell it.
[...] How much food will you give me for it? I will leave it to you.” I will never forget – the peasant looked at me and he said – bad word in Polish, but English translation more or less: “Get lost with this shit. You will bring misery to me here.” And he contemptuously looking: “Drop this shit somewhere.” So I offended, I didn’t answer, left the store, I remember, and again to the ride, East, East. Took the sabre, threw it in some field. Such was the end of my glorious, honorary, honourable military service in Poland. « excerpt from an interview with Jan Karski
On the seventeenth day of retreat Janâ€™s battalion was stopped by a column of Soviet tanks approaching from the east. Called on to surrender, Polish soldiers laid down their arms faced with the superior strength of the enemy. They were taken to the nearest train station and transported deep into Russia in cattle vans. They were held in a prisoner-of-war camp. At the end of October it was agreed that Germany and Russia would exchange prisoners. Soldiers from Polish territories which had been annexed to the Third Reich were to be relocated to German camps, while those from territories captured by the Red Army to Russian ones. However, the Russians only agreed to hand over privates and noncommissioned officers. Jan was a commissioned officer but he managed to go as a private. Together with other soldiers qualified for exchange he was placed in a German stalag near Kielce. 52
During transportation of prisoners to forced labour in Germany he managed to escape and, hiding, made his way to occupied Warsaw. In the capital, his brother helped him to establish contact with the emerging resistance movement. Thanks to his knowledge of foreign languages, international refinement and diplomatic experience Jan became a courier. He was to pass from occupied Polish territories to the south of France where the exiled Government of the Republic of Poland was resident and inform them about situation in the country; he was then to return with instructions for leaders of conspiratorial political and military organisations. Two first missions were a success. He was captured by the Germans while carrying out the third one. Tortured by the Gestapo to reveal the real purpose of his mission, he attempted suicide. He was rescued and transported to a Slovak hospital and then to one in Nowy Sącz, Poland. He came into contact with the local resistance movement which organised his escape. In retaliation – which he found out years later – the Germans executed 32 people, most of whom had nothing to do with his flight, by a firing squad. 53
They broke my jaw, knocked out my teeth. If one had hit me with a truncheon one centimetre lower, he would have knocked out my eye. And it was one time, the second time, third ... I could no longer stand it. I lost faith in myself. Well, I had a razor blade in my shoe. An ordinary razor blade, just in case. As I was in a cell, I took the razor blade out of the shoe, cut myself here to the left, to the right. I remember - and I was lying with the blood flowing, but then it stopped flowing, it was drying. So I was waving my arms so that the blood would keep flowing and it did. Well, I fainted. « “Moja misja”, dir. Michał Fajbusiewicz, TVP 1996
III. Towards the Jews The situation of all people living in the German-occupied territories was grave, but that of the Jews was tragic. From the very beginning, the Jews were subjected to severe repercussions: they had to wear special badges (Star of David) and mark their shops, they were not allowed to travel. Their possessions were confiscated on the slightest pretext, or simply plundered, and the people turned into a slave workforce. Already at the end of 1939, the Jews were ordered to move to marked-off ghettos, around which walls were put up to confine its residents. Leaving ghettos was prohibited under penalty of death. Conditions in ghettos were calamitous: overpopulation, disease and ever-present hunger caused hundreds of thousands of deaths.
Notice from the occupation authorities, from 5th of September 1942, talking about the threat of the death penalty to those who wanted to offer the Jews assistance 58
The next terrifying stage in the history of the suffering of the Jewish nation came when the Germans resolved to implement the “Final Solution”: extermination of all members of the nation. Mass executions of the Jewish people began and from the summer of 1942 their annihilation became a scheduled and systematic process. The Jews were transported from all over the country to concentration camps, where they were killed in gas chambers. Ghettos were successively eliminated: on 22nd July 1942 Germans began liquidating the largest of them – the Warsaw ghetto. What was happening to the Jews engendered different feelings and triggered various reactions in Polish society. Some people were horrified by German cruelty towards their neighbours, others were glad about Hitler “finally taking measures against the Jews “, yet others remained indifferent. Anti-Jewish attitudes prevailed mostly in the eastern territories occupied by the Russians from 1939. The Jews were accused here of supporting the Soviet regime and its anti-Polish policies. It was in these regions that acts of revenge and pogroms of the Jews took place after the Russians had been driven away by the Germans. However, enough Jews were being rescued for German authorities to announce that any kind of help given to Jews would be punished with death.
The situation of the Jews in [occupied] territories is clear, uncomplicated, easy to understand. They are outlaws under no protection of the authorities – their deterioration or elimination is strived for. The Jews are driven away from their places, their possessions are confiscated, “culprits” are imprisoned, all with the express purpose of cleansing the territory of the Jewish element. The Jews are hardly allowed to live there – if they do, they have to do it furtively, in constant fear, illegally, because German authorities and society “turn a blind eye to this regrettable fact”. […]
Jewish attitudes towards the Polish people are very much like those towards the Germans. Generally, it seems that they would appreciate understanding on the part of Poles, especially as both nations are unjustly oppressed by the same enemy. But there is no such understanding in the broad mass of the Polish population. They tend to be ruthless, even merciless to the Jews. They use the power they have gained from new circumstances. They do it a lot â€“ frequently abusing that power. That makes them similar to the Germans to some extent. ÂŤ excerpts from a report written by Jan Karski for the Polish Government-in-Exile at the beginning of 1940
Already in his report dating from the beginning of 1940, Jan made it clear that the fate of his Jewish compatriots constituted to him a matter of great importance. When a superior in the conspiratorial organisation asked for his assistance in taking a Jewish family, the Wertheims, away from Warsaw and finding a safe hiding place for them, he agreed without any hesitation. As they were waiting for a train to leave the city, the Wertheims were recognised by a szmalcownik, a person who threatened to turn them in to the Germans unless they paid him. It was exclusively Janâ€™s collectedness that saved them.
I stand with Dr Wertheim and his wife. He (was) dignified, he didn’t look at all Jewish. She looked Jewish. Afraid, histerically holding him by hand. So we are waiting for the train. [...] At a certain moment a man approaches us and quietly, low voice, tells: “Dr Wertheim, oh, Dr Wertheim I recognize you. I sold several times my blood to you. You paid me peanuts. Now you pay me. You are Jewish.” [...] And I understood the situation immediately. [...] At that time I had German marks, you know, Polish zlotys, gold pieces sewed in my clothes. From the pocket where I had zlotys I took some zlotys, not counting I gave him: “Now get lost.” And he did it. Took money. But I followed him with my eyes. He waited, did not leave the crowd. [...] Then the train comes, so with both of them I entered the train and quickly to the window: is the guy standing or does he enter the train, because if he enters the train he will blackmail us to the end. I was observing him. He was standing, the train moved and he did not enter the train. We went to Żyżyn Dolny. [...] As I learned later, there they did survive but then moved somewhere else and still had bad luck; they were denounced and perished... In certain areas of Poland Gestapo made it public that for any Jew delivered by somebody they will pay one litre of vodka. « excerpt from an interview with Jan Karski conducted by Ed Thomas Wood in 1996, 63
After a several-month period of convalescence, Jan resumed his conspiratorial activity at the beginning of 1941, first in Krakow, and later on in Warsaw. In the capital he became acquainted with the circle gathered around Zofia Kossak-Szczucka, an eminent Catholic writer and activist of the Underground. Before the war, Kossak-Szczuckaâ€™s articles had displayed anti-Semitic bias. On seeing what was happening in the Warsaw Ghetto, however, she strongly protested against the cruelties committed by the Germans against the Jewish nation, unequivocally condemning
those fellow citizens who supported the invaders or tried to get rich on Jewish tragedies. She was also actively involved in helping Jewish victims, co-founding the Provisional Committee for Aid to the Jews, and later the Ĺťegota Council for Aid to the Jews by the underground Home Army. Arrested by the Gestapo, she was taken to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp and then to a prison in Warsaw, where she was to await execution. Luckily, her conspiratorial friends managed to rescue her. After the war, she was granted the medal of Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.
Protest! In the Warsaw ghetto, behind the walls separating it from the outside world, hundreds of thousands of convicts are awaiting death. There is no hope of any rescue, no help comes. There are torturers in the streets and they are shooting at anyone who dares to leave their house. They shoot at anyone who stands in the window. In the streets, there are unburied corpses rotting. The daily average number of victims is 8-10 thousand. Jewish policemen are obliged to deliver them into the hands of the German executioners. If they do not, they themselves will be killed. Children unable to walk by themselves are loaded on carts. That is done in such a brutal manner that only few live as far as the ramp. The mothers watching, are losing their minds. The number of people insane with grief and horror is equal to the number of those shot dead. On the ramp, railway wagons are waiting. The executioners forcibly pack 150 condemned into one wagon. On the floor there is a thick watered layer of lime and chlorine. The wagon doors are sealed. Sometimes, the train pulls away immediately after loading, sometimes it stands on a siding for a day, two... It no longer has any meaning for anyone. Among the people packed so tightly are the dead who cannot fall and stand shoulder to shoulder with the living, the people slowly dying in the lime and chlorine fumes, with no fresh air, drop of water or food - no one is to be left alive. Wherever, whenever the trains will go, they will only contain corpses... In view of such suffering, imminent death would be a release. The torturers foresaw that. All pharmacies in the ghetto have been closed, so they cannot provide poison. There are no guns. The only thing remaining is to throw yourself out of a window onto the pavement. Many condemned escape their tormentors in such a way. What happens in the Warsaw ghetto has been taking place for six months in hundreds of smaller and larger Polish towns and cities. The total number of Jews killed already exceeds one million, and this figure is growing every day. Everyone dies. The rich and the poor, the old man and women, men and adolescents, infants, Catholics dying in the name of Jesus and Mary together with Jews. Their only guilt is that they were born in a Jewish nation, condemned to extermination by Hitler. The world watches this atrocity, more horrible than anything seen before â€“ and remains silent. The slaughter of millions of people continues among the ominous silence. The executioners are silent, they do not boast about what they do. England or America do not cry out, even the influential international Jewry is silent, as formerly it was sensitive to any harm done to their nation. Silent and Poles. Polish political friends of Jews confine themselves to journalistic notes, Polish opponents of the Jews show no interest in their foreign affairs. Dying Jews are surrounded only by Pilates washing their hands. 66
This silence should not be tolerated. Whatever the reason - it is despicable. One cannot remain indifferent towards such crimes. Whoever can be silent in the face of a murder - becomes a partner of the murderer. Whoever does not condemn - approves. We, therefore, take a stance, we Catholics – Poles. Our feelings towards Jews have not changed. We do not stop to consider them political, economic and ideological enemies of Poland. What’s more, we are aware of the fact that they hate us more than the Germans, and that make us responsible for their misfortune. Why, on what basis – it will remain a secret of the Jewish soul, but it is a constantly confirmed fact. The awareness of these feelings, however, does not relieve us of the obligation to condemn the crimes. We do not want to be Pilates. We have no power to actively prevent German murders, we cannot help save anyone – but we protest from the bottom of our hearts affected with pity, indignation and horror. Our protest is required by God, the God who did not allow us to kill. It is demanded by the Christian conscience. Every being, called a human being, has the right to the love of others. The blood of the defenceless cries out to heaven for vengeance. Whoever does not support this protest – is not a Catholic. We protest at the same time as Poles.. We do not believe that Poland can benefit from German cruelty. On the contrary. In the constant silence of international Jewry, in the German propaganda that tries now to blame Lithuanians and… Poles for the slaughter of Jews, we sense enemy actions against us. We also know how poisonous the fruit of crime is. The forced participation of the Polish nation in the bloody spectacle on Polish soil, can cause indifference to injustice, sadism, and above all, a dangerous belief that murdering your neighbour remains unpunished. Whoever does not understand, whoever would dare to associate the proud and free future of Poland with the grief of others – is neither a Catholic nor a Pole! Front for the Restoration of Poland
an appeal by the Front Odrodzenia Polski [Front for the Restoration of Poland] of August 1942, developed by Zofia Kossak-Szczucka 67
Hitler has resolved to murder all Jews in all Europe. This is the end. Poles sustain losses. Poles suffer…, we all do, but there is a difference. The war is coming to an end, Hitler will be defeated, your nation will emerge from the war, but the Jews will not be there. This is the difference between us: we will be butchered. «
Leon Feiner, a Bund activist, in conversation with Jan Karski, Autumn 1942. M. Wierzyński, J. Karski “Emisariusz. Własnymi słowami”, Warsaw 2012
IV. In the Warsaw Ghetto In mid 1942 Jan was sent by his superiors on one more mission as a courier. This time he was to go to London which was where the Polish Government had resided since the defeat of France. Similarly to his previous missions, Jan was supposed to hear out representatives of the main political parties of the Underground and provide an objective account of their opinions and views on what was going on in occupied Poland to the Government. The activists he talked to included two Jewish leaders: Leon Feiner from the socialist party Bund and Menachem Kirszenbaum, a Zionist. Having related the tragic situation of the Jews, they asked Jan to
pages: 71 - 73 Shots from an amateur film “Im Warschauer Ghetto” taken by German cameraman in Warsaw ghetto in May 1942
appeal on their behalf to the Polish Government, governments of the anti-Nazi coalition, the Catholic Church and the Western Jewish Diaspora to use all possible means to oppose the German plan for the extermination of the Jewish nation. Feiner suggested that Jan should accompany him to the Warsaw Ghetto to see the enormity of crime committed by the Nazis and be able to give his own testimony. At the end of August, Jan and his guide got to the Jewish side through a tunnel running under the wall that surrounded the Ghetto…
Naked bodies on the street. I asked him: “Why are they here?” [...] He says: Well, they have a problem. In the Judaism… if the family wants some burial, they have to pay tax on it. So they just throw them in the street.” [...] They cannot afford it. So then they say: “Every rug counts so they take their clothing.” [...] Women with their babies. Publicly feeding their babies. They have no breast, just flat. Babies with some crazy eyes looking. [...] It was not a world. It was not humanity. Streets full. Full. Apparently all of them lived on the street. Exchange. What was the most important – everybody offering something to sell. “The onions? Buy onions!” Some cookies. Selling. Begging each other. Crying: “I’m hungry.” Were horrible children. Some children running by themselves. Not with their mothers, sitting… It wasn’t humanity. It was some… some… some hell… German officers were there, in the centre of Ghetto. [...] They were walking. Silence. Everybody frozen. Until they passed. No movement. No begging. Nothing. Germans contempt. [...] « fragment of an interview with Jan Karski conducted by Claude Lanzmann in 1978, from “Shoah”, 1985, dir. C. Lanzmann
V. The Camp in Izbica Jan was transfixed by the cruelties he witnessed during his two visits to the Warsaw Ghetto. However, Feiner insisted that Jan had not seen enough and asked the courier to make one more trip. This time he was not going to the Ghetto but to a camp where Jews were transported from occupied Europe. In spite of terrible risk entailed by the expedition, Jan agreed. Wearing a Nazi guard uniform, he was led by a bribed Ukrainian soldier into the camp. For a long time he believed that he had visited the camp in Bełżec. In fact, he was several dozen kilometres away in Izbica, in a transit camp from which the Jews – after they had been robbed of any valuables – were moved to extermination sites. Conveyed in inhumane conditions and treated with the utmost brutality, vast numbers died already during transport.
Once more, I have seen terrible things. A railway
platform, deportation from the camp. The gendarmes,
SS, masses of Jews. I do not know â€“ a thousand, fifteen
hundred. Children, women, old men. The stench, the
despair, the cries: â€œRaus! Raus!â€? Forced with butts onto
the train, if someone stumbled, then they were beating
them with rifle butts. Horror. An image not of this
world, people do not even treat cattle in this way.
Dokument: okładka I wydania książki „Story pozycji. Źródło: Muzeum Miasta Łodzi
Secret State”, 1944. Oraz
Soldiers, policemen and civilians cramming people into
wagons, and as one wagon became full, the train would
move a few meters. Then, they opened the next wagon.
The last were forced to climb over the heads of those
who went in earlier. I was watching petrified. At some
point, I turned around and saw that my guide is shouting:
Follow me, follow me! So I went after him, to the same
gate. The watchman let us through with the same
gesture. We walked out. Then, the guide began to scold
me: â€œWhat struggles, what silly faces you were making!
You were there to see, well, you saw!â€? Apparently, I had
a momentary breakdown. He took me to the grocery
store, and there I began to vomit. I was vomiting
continuously, then I threw up some blood…
M. Wierzyński, J. Karski “Emisariusz. Własnymi słowami”, Warsaw 2012 99
VI. Report Jan went on what was to be his last mission as a courier at the beginning of October 1942. Apart from the information in his head, he carried microfilm containing dozens of documents and reports concealed in a hollow key. Impersonating a French seasonal worker, he managed to get to Paris. Guided by a Spanish communist, he then crossed the Pyrenees and arrived in Madrid. Here Jan was taken over by US Secret Service agents who enabled him to reach the British base in Gibraltar. He was conveyed to London in a RAF plane. The journey took almost two months. During his underground activity, Jan used different cryptonyms. One of them was â€œJan Karskiâ€? and it was the one he used on his last mission. When he settled permanently in the United States after the war, he adopted the name officially. The information disclosed by Jan and especially his report on ongoing annihilation of the Jews caused a great commotion in London. Less than a fortnight after his arrival, the Polish National
A cover of the booklet published on 10 December 1942 by the Polish government in exile and addressed to the governments of the United Nations
Council in exile, consisting of representatives of the main political parties, passed a resolution regarding the extermination of the Jewish nation. Several days later, Minister of Foreign Affairs Edward Raczyński issued on the behalf of the Polish Government an official diplomatic note calling on the United Nations to take action against Nazi crimes committed against the Jews. On 17th December 1942 a declaration by twelve allied states, condemning atrocities committed by the Nazis against the Jewish nation, was announced in London, Washington and Moscow. » The Polish Government in London did everything it could to help the Jews. The thing was the Government was powerless not only as regards aiding the Jews but also restoring the independence of its own country. «
from a letter by Jan Karski delivered to Daniel Grinberg of the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw in 1993 102
Âť The attention of the Governments of Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, the United States of America, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Yugoslavia, and of the French National Committee has been drawn to numerous reports from Europe that the German authorities, not content with denying to persons of Jewish race in all the territories over which their barbarous rule has been extended the most elementary human rights, are now carrying into effect Hitlerâ€™s oft repeated intention to exterminate the Jewish people in Europe. From all the occupied countries Jews are being transported, in conditions of appalling horror and brutality, to Eastern Europe. In Poland, which has been made the principal Nazi slaughterhouse, the ghettoes established by the German invaders are being systematically emptied of all Jews except a few highly skilled workers required for war industries. None of those taken away are ever heard of again. The able-bodied are 104
slowly worked to death in labour camps. The infirm are left to die of exposure and starvation or are deliberately massacred in mass executions. The number of victims of these bloody cruelties is reckoned in many hundreds of thousands of entirely innocent men, women and children. The above mentioned Governments and the French National Committee condemn in the strongest possible terms this bestial policy of cold-blooded extermination. They declare that such events can only strengthen the resolve of all freedom loving peoples to overthrow the barbarous Hitlerite tyranny. They re-affirm their solemn resolution to ensure that those responsible for these crimes shall not escape retribution, and to press on with the necessary practical measures to this end. ÂŤ announced on the initiative of British Foreign Secretary, Anthony Eden, the declaration of twelve Allied states upon the responsibility for the Holocaust, read on 17th December 1942 on BBC Radio
Jan discussed the situation of civilians in Nazi-occupied territories and Polish resistance movement developing on an unprecedented scale with the most prominent Polish politicians in exile, Jewish leaders as well as the central figures in British politics, including Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden and the members of the War Cabinet. Fulfilling the promise given to Feiner and Kirszenbaum, he also told them about the tragedy of the Jewish nation, appealing on their behalf to his interlocutors to help and rescue the Jews who were still alive. Although his words met with strong reactions, Jan could feel that most of the people he conversed with doubted his accounts of the crimes committed by the Nazis against the Jews and refused to acknowledge their sheer scale of atrocity. Karski also met with representatives of the mainstream media and influential intellectuals, trying to win their sympathy for Poland and support for the Jewish question. They included the famous writers, Herbert George Wells and Arthur Koestler. The latter wrote a radio play based on Karski’s relation which was then cited in Aleksey Tolstoy and Thomas Mann’s book Terror in Europe: the Fate of the Jews as a text by an anonymous “member of the Polish Underground”. Koestler’s novel entitled Arrivals and Departures, whose protagonist was modelled upon Karski, was also published in 1943.
A cover of the book published in 1943, including texts by Alexei Tolstoy, Thomas Mann and an “anonymous activist of the Polish underground” - Jan Karski 107
The Jews were totally helpless. What happened to the Jews – also it is important to those who will ever see our interview – what happened to the Jews was unprecedented in the human history. It have never happened before. And for educated men, elite – and I met, of course, men from elite, in England mostly aristocracy: Lord Cranborne, Lord Selborne, Eden, they had best education – they never saw this kind of things. It was even difficult for them, probably, really to believe. I had a feeling at that time that in some cases the man – I had this feeling – he thinks that I am spreading exaggerated and ant-igerman propaganda. I remember once I made report to Lord Selborne. He was a supervisor of all Underground Movements in Europe.
He decided who should get help, who should be ignored. It was a powerful man. He left memoires stating his activities. I report to him what I saw. Then he listened. And then he tells: “Mr. Karski, you know, during the First World War there were rumours over Europe that the German soldiers in Belgium liked to fetch the babies by their feet and crush their sculls against the wall. Of course, we knew those rumours were untrue. But we didn’t do anything to correct them. They were good for the morale of our people. Mr. Karski – speak what you saw, inform as many people as possible. We stand behind you. You are doing a great work.” [...]
“Holocaust Rescue and Aid Provider, Jan Karski Testimony” received by Renee Firestone on 10 March 1995, USC Shoah Foundation Institute
At the beginning of 1943, Karski went to the United States to continue his mission according to the instructions he had received from the Polish Government. Again, he talked to the most eminent figures of public life: American politicians, members of the Polish community, leaders of Jewish organizations, church hierarchs, publishers and editors of the mainstream media. Karski was even provided with the opportunity to meet President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. However, he believed that his efforts produced minimal effect, just like in England. They failed to mobilise support for Poland or bring salvation to the Jews.
One of the people Karski talked to was Felix Frankfurter, Supreme Court Justice and a prominent figure in the Jewish Diaspora in the United States. Once again, Karski related the fate of the Jews in occupied Poland, what he had seen in the Ghetto as well as in the transit camp. Just like the others, Frankfurter was not able to believe his storyâ€Ś
I met Frankfurter in this room. Ambassador Ciechanowski sitting on my left. Frankfurter in front of us. Justice Frankfurter – little man, frankly unimpressive. Only his eyes betrayed brilliance. He liked also to use juridical language a little. He started: “Mr. Karski, do you know who I am?” “Yes Sir. Mr. Ambassador told me. You are Justice of the Supreme Court.” “Do you know that I am a Jew.” “Yes Sir. Mr. Ambassador told me that too.” “Being so, please tell me what is happening to the Jews in your country? There are conflicting reports reaching us.” So then I knew. This man will not interrupt me. To him I can say everything. I didn’t mention one word about Poland, Polish Underground, my activities. Only what I saw. What was happening to the Jews. He interrupted me a few times; some I remember questions – how high was the wall, how did I enter the Ghetto. I answered whatever I could. And then, after some twenty minutes, twenty five minutes, I have nothing to say. Watching over myself not to include to Poland and Polish underground, not to complicate a situation – this man is interested only in the Jews in Poland. And then, this I will never forget. I finished. Silence. And then he gets up without 111
a word and starts to walk in front of us... Then Frankfurter comes back and takes his sit. And says – I remember word by word, something you never forget – “Mr. Karski, a man like me talking to a man like you must be totally frank. So I say you I am unable to believe what you told me.” So Ciechanowski burst out, they were personal friends: “Felix, you don’t mean it. You cannot tell him that he is lying. Felix, the authority of my Government is behind him.” Frankfurter: “Mr. Ambassador, I did not say that this young man is lying. I said that I am unable to believe what he told me. There is a difference Mr. Ambassador.” And then, I remember, he extended his arms in my direction: “No. No.” More or less the conversation ended. « excerpt from an interview with Jan Karski conducted by Ed Thomas Wood in 1996
On the front page of the New York Times that day was the photograph of Herbert Lehman who was the Governor of the New York state, and he had donated his sneakers to the scrub rubber drive… That is the main story and this is on a day which the New York Times carries the report that million of Jews have been murdered. « Efraim Zurrof, Simon Wiesenthal Center, excerpt from an unfinished film by S. Grunberg „Karski and the Lords of Humanity”
I did not meet anyone there claiming to dislike
the Jews. I could not suspect anybody of antiSemitism. They expressed compassion towards the Jews but they all – they all presented arguments why none of the Jewish demands were realistic. « M. Wierzyński, J. Karski “Emisariusz. Własnymi słowami”, Warsaw 2012
There are different explanations: some were afraid, others did not want to ruin their careers, yet others believed that if they had started talking about the Jewish tragedy antiSemitism would have increased. I really do not know. The situation was far from clear, the only thing known for certain is that the United States did nothing and England did nothing, either. Or nearly nothing. This is what
we know. «
M. Wierzyński, J. Karski “Emisariusz. Własnymi słowami”, Warsaw 2012
It was the encounter with Szmul Zygielbojm, a representative of the Bund, a Jewish socialist party, in the Polish Government-inExile, that became embedded in Karski’s memory like few others. Karski informed him that Jewish leaders in Poland demanded that Jewish leaders in the free world take all necessary action to draw public attention to the extermination of their Eastern-European brothers and, in the last resort, “die a slow death while the world looks on”. Zygielbojm was deeply upset by Karski’s words. Several months after their meeting, he committed suicide on learning of the suppression of the Ghetto Uprising in Warsaw. Karski reproached himself for contributing to his death: » […] I felt […] a wave of mingled shock, grief, and guilt. I felt as though I had personally handed Zygelbojm his death warrant. «
J. Karski “Story of a Secret State”, Boston 1944 116
Szmul M. Zygielbojm Member of the National Council of The Republic of Poland. PHONE: 12 Porchester Square, Bayswater 1626 London, W.2. 11th May 1943.
To the President of the Republic of Poland, Władysław Raczkiewicz To the Prime Minister, General Władysław Sikorski. I take the liberty of addressing to you my last words, and through you, to the Polish Government and people, to the Governments and peoples of the Allied States, to the conscience of the world. From the latest information received from Poland, it is evident without doubt that the Germans, with full ruthless cruelty, are now murdering the few remaining Jews in Poland. Behind the walls of the ghettos the last act of a tragedy unprecedented in history is being performed. The responsibility for the crime of murdering all Jewish population in Poland falls, in the first instance, on the perpetrators, but indirectly, also weighs on the whole of humanity, the peoples and Governments of the Allied States, which, so far, have made no effort towards a concrete action for the purpose of curtailing this crime. By the passive observation of this murder of defenceless millions and maltreated children, women and men, these countries have become accomplices of the criminals. I have also to state that although the Polish Government has in a high degree contributed to the stirring of the opinion of the world, yet insufficiently, it did not do anything so extraordinary that would correspond to the magnitude of the drama now being enacted in Poland. From nearly 3 and a half million Polish Jews and about 700,000 Jews deported to Poland from other countries, there still lived in April of this year – according to official information of the Head of the Underground Bund Organisation, sent to us through the Delegate of the Government, - about 300,000. And the murder is still going on incessantly. I cannot be silent and I cannot live while the remnants of the Jewish people in Poland, of whom I am the representative, are perishing. 118
My comrades in the Warsaw ghetto perished with weapons in their hand in their last heroic impulse. It was my not my destiny to perish as they did, together with them, but I belong to them and to their mass graves. By my death I wish to express my strongest protest against the inactivity with which the world is looking on and permitting the extermination of the Jewish people. I know how little human life is worth, especially today. But as I was unable to do anything during my life, perhaps by my death I shall contribute to the breaking of the indifference of those, who are able and should act in order to save now, maybe in the last moment, this handful of Polish Jews, who are still alive, from certain annihilation. My life belongs to the Jewish people in Poland, and therefore, I give it to them. I wish that this handful which remained from several millions of Polish Jews, could live to see, with the Polish masses, the liberation, that it could breathe in Poland, and in a world of freedom and in the justice of socialism, for all its tortures and inhuman sufferings. And I believe that such a Poland will arise and such a world will come. I trust that the President and the Prime Minister will direct these my words to all those for whom they are destined, and that the Polish Government will immediately begin an appropriate action in the diplomatic and propaganda fields in order to save yet from extermination the remains of the Polish Jews who are still alive. I bid farewell to all and everything dear to me and loved by me. S. Zygielbojm
the farewell letter of Shmuel Zygielbojm to the President and the Prime Minister of Poland 119
Jan Karskiâ€™s last mission coincided with the time at which Polandâ€™s post-war fate was being decided. The leaders of the main powers of the anti-Nazi coalition, President of the United States Franklin Delano Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill realised that the war would continue unless the Soviet Union shouldered the chief burden of military action. Stalin was ready to increase the involvement of the Red Army but he wanted land in return. He demanded approval for including Poland into the Soviet sphere of influence as well as annexing its eastern territories by the USSR. 120
Although the talks between Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin were secret, the Polish Government-in-Exile was aware of the potential threat. An idea emerged to make a film based on Karski’s adventures. It would present the real heroism of the Polish people in their struggle against the Germans. The intention behind this was to elicit sympathy for the Polish case from the US society and thus affect Roosevelt’s attitude towards Stalin’s demands. However, attempts to generate interest in the idea in Hollywood proved fruitless. Film producers preferred to avoid the subject of Polish resistance because of the tension between Poland and the USSR, advertised by Soviet propaganda not without bias. Fortunately, an opportunity arose to publish Karski’s reminiscences in the form of a novel. The book entitled The Story of a Secret State appeared in the autumn of 1944 and almost instantly proved a spectacular success. The most influential US magazines printed enthusiastic reviews; the novel was one of the prestigious Book-of-the-Month Club Selections. More than 360,000 copies were sold in the United States alone, which was a remarkable achievement. Contracts were signed for the publication of the book in Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Hebrew and Arabic. 121
cover of the 1st edition of the “Story of a Secret State”, Boston 1944
Growing interest in the book began to wane when Karski – contrary to suggestions from the publishers – started to openly criticise Stalin and his policy towards Poland. Consecutive victories of the Red Army over the German forces caused general euphoria; Karski’s novel about outstanding courage of a country part of which was to be sacrificed for the benefit of the Soviet Union and the state brought under Stalin’s control was becoming increasingly inconvenient. “Karski was no longer relevant – he would say years later – Karski was no longer trendy. Because he did not go along with communists. 123
» Combines a touch of Tolstoy, a hint of Proust and a murder that would challenge Hitchcock at his best… The “Story of a Secret State” redescribes for our age the terrible vision of man’s descent into the Inferno… Because of its literary power, there is a real danger that the “Story of a Secret State” may be read as a fiction instead of fact, or propaganda instead of scrupulous reporting. We can ill afford to misunderstand its purpose. « — Edward Whiting Fox, “The New York Times Book Review”
» In this eloquent, absorbing book Karski has written more than his personal history, or the story of a secret state, ore one of the finest books to emerge from World War II. He has told the heroic saga of a nation… A masterly narrative. « — Frederick Gruin, „The Saturday Review of Literature”
» One of the most thrilling books of its sort produced by the Second German War Against Mankind… There are at least two chapters in Karski’s record that, once read, it will be difficult to forget – though the reader, I dare say, will, for the sake of his own peace of mind, desire passionately to forget them… Told with extraordinary vigor, animation and sincerity. « — Clifton Fadiman, „The-Book-of-the-Month Club News”
» The story of this secret state is one of the most exciting and one of the most interesting stories of this war… Compared to this factual report of intrigue and horror and bravery the Bulldog Drummond novels of international derring-do seem as pale and unreal as the scholarly romances of our childhood in which Christians were thrown to the lions in a Roman arena. This is our world, and these are our nightmares. If you want political emotions as contemporary as B-29 or a bazooka, this is your book. « — Joseph Barnes,”The New York Herald Tribune Weekly Book Review”
» When a book is at once a great political document, a paean to man’s ineradicable love of freedom, a first rate adventure story, and a horrifying indictment of brutality and lust, you have something. Jan Karski’s Story of a Secret State is all of these things. « — John Chamberlain reviews of leading American critics about the „Story of a Secret State”
Comic-style advert for the book “Story of a Secret State” by William Sharp, published in Dillon, SC Herald, February 8, 1945 127
Every day newspapers reporting: American statesmen, ambassadors, university professors, rectors, political leaders go to Europe to see what happened in Germany, you know, to see concentration camps, news spread. And they return. Practically everybody: I saw terrible, terrible, terrible things. We didn’t know what was happening. Then I got disgusted with this. They knew. « Holocaust Rescue and Aid Provider, Jan Karski Testimony” received by Renee Firestone on 10 March 1995, USC Shoah Foundation Institute
VII. Years of Silence After the war, Jan Karski had to make a new life for himself. He neither could nor wanted to return to Poland because of his wartime activity and radically anti-Soviet stance. In the United States, his extraordinary experiences and heroic deeds were soon forgotten. The aura of post-war optimism did not favour brooding over recent horrors. Karski wanted to dissociate himself from disturbing memories as well. In 1949 Karski entered Georgetown University and, three years later, received a PhD in Political Science. He remained at the University until he retired in 1989, giving lectures on the theory of communism and classes in comparative government theory.
Diploma of Doctor of Philosophy at Georgetown University
He also cooperated with the US Secret Services sharing his knowledge of sabotage techniques and methods of waging psychological warfare by the Polish anti-Nazi Underground. In the 1950s and 60s, he was sent by the Department of State to visit such countries as, for instance, Cambodia, Vietnam, India, Turkey, Lebanon or the Philippines, where he delivered pro-American, anti-communist lectures. Karski was a firm believer in American democracy and lifestyle, in which he saw the only effective counterbalance to the threat of Soviet communism.
Cover of one of the editions of Jan Karski’s „The Great Powers & Poland 1919 1945 From Versailles to Yalta” published for the 1st time in US in 1985
In 1974, Karski began work on his magnum opus, a book entitled The Great Powers and Poland 1919-1945: From Versailles to Yalta, which was published ten years later. In this work, Karski attempted to find the answer – also for himself – to the question about the reasons behind the Polish defeat in the Second World War, as a result of which Poland lost a third of its territory and became dependent on the USSR for a half-century. “I wrote this book because I am Polish. During the war, I did my very best for the country, like other Poles did. I wanted to know why Poland, a loyal ally of the victorious Allies, suffered such overwhelming defeat.
excerpt from an interview with Jan Karski conducted by Justyna Duriasz and published in “Rzeczpospolita” on 13th-16th April 1990 134
In 1954, Karski made acquaintance of Pola Nireńska-Nirensztajn, a dancer and choreographer, who had captured his attention when he had first seen her performing in London already in 1938. Pola Nireńska was born in Warsaw, to a Jewish family. She left Poland in the mid 1930s, wishing to carve out an international dance career. Her parents left the country soon after, which was how they were able to survive the war. Unfortunately, most members of her family lost their lives during the Holocaust. Pola Nireńska developed an aversion to the Polish people, accusing them of indifference to the fate of Jewish fellow citizens. A few years later, Jan Karski and Pola Nireńska got married. In order to do that, Pola decided to convert to Catholicism.
The wedding ceremony of Pola Nireńska and Jan Karski Pola Nireńska in a car 137
Before our marriage she passed to the bosom of the Catholic Church. I remember that she was instructed by Monsignor Luis, who later became a bishop in New Orleans. He explained her the rules. My wife said she did not understand. And at some point he asked her: “Pola, what Do you like most about our Church?” Pola: “God can do anything. We can not embrace his greatness. And God had then at his disposal women from all over the world: Greek, Babylonian, Chinese, Japanese. And he chose a Jewess. Monsignor - it’s so beautiful” « an excerpt from an archival materials of TVP Lodz Jan Karski interviewied by Michał Fajbusiewicz and Waldemar Piasecki in 1996
VIII. The Mission Goes On In 1978, Claude Lanzmann, a French filmmaker, asked Karski to grant him an interview for his documentary “Shoah”. Karski did not want to revive horrific memories but he finally agreed. The recording took two days. From many hours of recorded material Lanzmann only used those fragments that pertained to Karski’s visits to the Ghetto and the camp in Izbica. Accounts of help received by the Jews from the Polish people as well as Karski’s efforts to inform the world of their tragedy were omitted. He bore some resentment about the content of his story being misrepresented; nevertheless, he defended Lanzmann’s film as the most outstanding work about the Holocaust.
Honorary citizenship of the State of Israel for Jan Karski â€œRighteous Among the Nationsâ€? diploma awarded to Karski by Yad Vashem Institute in 1982 143
Another thing that brought wartime memories back to Karski was the invitation he received from Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust researcher, to participate in the International Liberators Conference. The conference took place in Washington in 1981 and Karski’s emotional speech was considered to be its climax, stimulating renewed interest in the courier and his experiences in the war. In recognition of his efforts towards rescuing the Jews, the Yad Vashem Institute in Jerusalem granted him the medal of Righteous Among the Nations in 1982, and twelve years later he was awarded honorary Israeli citizenship. Karski received many other distinctions and awards, including the Order of the White Eagle, Poland’s highest decoration, presented to him by Lech Wałęsa. Several Polish and American colleges – including Georgetown University – conferred on him an honorary degree.
Act of the House of Representatives of the U.S. Congress - Nancy Pelosi’s speech in tribute to Jan Karski 144
Diploma Doctor Honoris Causa of the University of Lodz 146
Diploma Doctor Honoris Causa of the University of Warsaw
Diploma Doctor Honoris Causa of the Georgetown University 147
In the 1980s, Karski’s involvement in discussions on the Holocaust increased as he participated in conferences, lectured and gave interviews around the world, from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, to Israel and Poland. He thus continued the mission he started in 1942. This time, his objective was no longer to save the Jews from extermination, but not to let the world forget about the heinous crime.
» The second original sin had been committed by humanity through commission, or omission, or self imposed ignorance, or insensitivity, or self interest, or hypocrisy, or heartless rationalization. This sin will haunt humanity to the end of time. It does haunt me. And I want it to be so. « an excerpt from Jan Karski’s speech at the International Liberators Conference organized by United States Holocaust Memory Council under the guidance of Eli Wiesel, in 1981
Jan Karski, Jerusalem, 1996, photo by M. Fajbusiewicz
IX. Defeat? Jan Karski was critical of the effects of his wartime activity. He repeatedly said that his efforts did not make the war any shorter. “As is well known – he would comment years later – the Jewish piece of my mission ended in failure. Six million Jews perished. No one gave them any effective help. Not any government, not any nation, not the Church. M. Kozłowski “The Emissary”, Warsaw 2007
Today we know that Karski’s reports were instrumental in compelling the Allied Governments to adopt a stance towards the extermination. John Pehle, appointed executive director of the War Refugee Board, an agency for providing aid to war victims – mostly Jews, in 1944, admitted that Roosevelt formed the board after his conversation with Karski. He also claimed that Karski managed to change the US policy towards the Jews in occupied Europe from disinterested and passive to participating overnight. However, Karski’s greatest victory was the fact that his attitude restored faith in humanity. As Michael Berenbaum, co-founder of the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, put it: » Jan Karski has redeemed the image of humanity precisely at the moment when by his very being, by his heroic deeds, he indicts the image of humanity. « In 2012, President of the United States Barack Obama awarded Jan Karski with the highest US civilian honour, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
He believed at that time that his mission had been a total failure. And those to whom he told his story had not listened and had disbelieved it. I was able to show him that in this very short period of 22 days the report that he brought, which is quite long and difficult to read, and very disturbing, transformed allied policy: from one of skepticism to one of belief, and one of relative silence to one of very loud speaking and protesting. « Martin Gilbert, Second World War researcher, an excerpt from an unfinished film by S. Grunberg „Karski and the Lords of Humanity”
Karski’s testimony, Karski’s trip, his meetings were part of this process that helped automatically convinced the leadership that something has to be done. « Efraim Zurrof, Simon Wiesenthal Center. An excerpt from an unfinished film by S. Grunberg „Karski and the Lords of Humanity”
He presented his report in London on 25th of November 1942 and a mere 22 days later, that is only 3 weeks later, Moscow, London and Washington announced publicly in an extraordinary declaration, unique in the history of the Second World War, that the Nazis were deliberately seeking and already in the process of exterminating the Jews of Europe, and that these bestial crimes were true, were taking place and we condemn it. « Martin Gilbert, Second World War researcher, an excerpt from an unfinished film by S. Grunberg „Karski and the Lords of Humanity”
Epilogue Jan Karski died on 13th July 2000 in Washington. Before his death, he visited Łódź, the city he had been born in and had left at the beginning of the war, on several occasions. In 1999, Jan Karski’s Study was established in the Museum of the City of Łódź, containing mementoes he presented to the museum. More than a half-century after leaving it, Jan returned to reside in Łódź…
Washington, 23 September 1999 Mr. Jan Kozielewski 15 Ogrodowa Street 91-065 Lodz
My friend… After all these years, I can now write to you again at an address in Lodz. I never imagined this would happen …
You have gone back, back to where you came from.
To the city of your happy and crazy youth.
What has been happening to you, man, since that day
in August 1931, when you got on the train at Lodz Fabryczna station? Where did it take you…?
„I had no desire for Warsaw,
When I was leaving Lodz.
Rotten twilight glided across the fields,
The train dragged itself like a funeral through the fog”
Warsaw, Vilnius, Lvov, Krakow … Paris, London, Washington, New York, Caracas, Washington … Tuwim was right, wasn’t he? I’m going to see you. The address I’m writing to is to be valid from 1 October 1999. Maybe, the letter will come in time? Perhaps we will recognize each other after all these years? Yours (?) the letter Jan Karski wrote to himself and sent to the address of the Museum of the City of Łódź 159
Catalogue of the exhibition “Karski. Don’t Let The World Forget” Marek Edelman Dialogue Center in Lodz April 24th – December 24th 2014
Curator and author of the catalogue’s concept and texts: Jarosław Suchan
Exhibition design Robert Rumas
Exhibition organized by: Krzysztof Dudek - Director Edward Chudzik - Deputy Director Dorota Wysocka Marzena Strąk Sylwia Wiewiór
Translated by Monika Ujma Jarosław Suchan Centrum Szkoleniowe IDEA Grup
Layout Krzysztof Iwański
The photographs and documents used in this book come from the following sources:
E. Thomas Wood Archive: 4, 5, 46, 47, 48, 49, 61
Museum of the City of Lodz: 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 130, 140, 141, 143, 144, 145 (bottom)
YIVO Institute for Jewish Research: 18, 19, 20
USC Shoah Foundation Institute: 22, 23, 126, 127
Jan Karski International Institute for Dialogue and Tolerance in Ruda Śląska: 25, 134, 135, 145 (top)
Hoover Institution Library and Archives: 26, 101, 105, 115, 124 (with the consent of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies)
Polish Television: 28, 29, 52, 53, 106, 107, 109, 110, 111
National Center for Culture: 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 56
Steven Spielberg Video and Film Archive, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum / Bundesfilmarchiv/Transit Film GmbH: 71, 72, 73
Michał Fajbusiewicz private collection: 146