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Portrait of Jan Karski at Georgetown University.

Photograph | Digitized | Photograph Number: 94620

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    Portrait of Jan Karski at Georgetown University.
    Portrait of Jan Karski at Georgetown University.


    Portrait of Jan Karski at Georgetown University.
    Carol Harrison
    Chevy Chase, MD United States
    Photo Credit
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Carol Harrison

    Rights & Restrictions

    Photo Source
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Provenance: Carol Harrison

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    Administrative Notes

    Jan Karski (Kozielewski, 1914-2000) was an official in the Polish Foreign Office before the Second World War. He completed his studies in Lvov's Jan Kazimierz University in 1935 and entered the Polish diplomatic service. As a junior diplomat his posts included London and Berlin. With the approach of the war in 1939, he was drafted and stationed in Oswiecim. Following his unit's retreat he was taken prisoner by the Soviets and sent to a detention camp in Kozielszczyna from which he escaped. Returning to Warsaw, he joined the underground in which his older brother Marian was an important figure. Karski's knowledge of foreign languages and countries and his near photographic memory led him to become a resourceful courier, conveying secret information between underground authorities and the Polish government in exile in London. His first successful mission was in the spring of 1940. While preparing for his next assignment, he was captured and tortured by the Gestapo. Then, after an unsuccessful attempt on his life, Karski was transferred to a hospital from which he was rescued by the Polish underground and taken into hiding. In spring 1942, he met with leaders of the Jewish resistance. They arranged for Karski to be smuggled into the Warsaw Ghetto and into a transit camp - probably Izbica -- so he could see first hand the extent of Nazi atrocities. With that knowledge, in October 1942 Karski made a perilous trek across Europe to London, where he delivered his report to the Polish government-in-exile. He also met with foreign minister Anthony Eden and other British leaders. He described to them what he had seen in the ghetto and the camp and warned them of Germany's plans to murder Europe's Jews. The following year he traveled to the United States and met with President Roosevelt, Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter and other government officials and Jewish community leaders. His information met with disbelief and reluctance to act. He was told that the military defeat of Germany would remain the Allies' primary objective. Meanwhile, Polish authorities realized that Karski's identity had become known in Germany. Therefore he remained in the United States where he promoted Poland's cause and publicized information about the Holocaust. Karski wrote about his experiences in "The Story of a Secret State," (1944). In 1982 he was honored by Yad Vashem and designated as one of the Righteous Among the Nations.
    Record last modified:
    2004-02-06 00:00:00
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