Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Video: Messenger From Hell -- How Jan Karski Tried To Stop The Holocaust

One of this year's Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients is the late Jan Karski, the Polish Catholic courier who risked his life to alert the world about the Holocaust.

Karski died in 2000, and only recently are people learning who he was and the important role he played, thanks to his biography, Karski: How One Man Tried to Stop the Holocaust, by E. Thomas Wood and Stanislaw M. Jankowski--and the video below:

From the YouTube page:
In the winter of 1943, a young Polish diplomat was asked to risk his life to alert the international community about the Nazis' mass murder of the Jews. He said yes. This episode tells the harrowing story of Jan Karski, who was smuggled into the Warsaw Ghetto and a Nazi death camp so he could witness the atrocities against the Jews and report them to the world. Karski's desperate missions to Great Britain and the United States and his frantic attempts to warn government leaders and the public about the raging Holocaust shed light on a troubling question: What did the international community know about the Nazi genocide--and when did it know it?
Here is the video:

Rafael Medoff, Director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, writes that Jan Karski had difficulty getting prominent leaders to listen and react to what he knew about the Holocaust in Europe:
...Determined to alert the Free World to what he had witnessed, Karski traveled by train across occupied Belgium, Germany and France. Thanks to an injection from a sympathetic dentist that swelled his jaw, Karski was able to avoid conversation that might have revealed his Polish identity. He hiked across the Pyrenees mountains into Spain, and from there traveled to London.

Karski was able to secure a meeting with British Foreign Minister Anthony Eden, who showed little interest in his account of the slaughter of the Jews. The prime minister, Winston Churchill, was said to be too busy to see him at all. Karski did succeed in generating a number of sympathetic reports in the British press and BBC Radio.

Karski arrived in the United States in July 1943. One of his first meetings was with Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter. Karski described the Warsaw Ghetto, the Izbica transit station and the systematic annihilation of European Jewry. Frankfurter's response: "I am unable to believe you."

On July 28, the young Polish courier met with President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In the Oval Office, he described the activities of the Polish underground for over an hour. The president listened with fascination, asked questions and offered unsolicited advice. But when Karski related details of the mass killings of the Jews, FDR had nothing to say. The president was, as Karski politely put it, "rather noncommittal."

Roosevelt seemed to view the suffering of the Jews as just another unfortunate aspect of what civilians suffer in every war. He did not believe it was justified for the U.S. to use its resources to rescue Jews from the Nazis, nor did he want hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees on his hands.

Though disheartened by his encounter with the president, Karski did not give up. He authored a harrowing first-person account of the situation in Hitler's Europe, Story of a Secret State: My Report to the World, and spent much of 1945 delivering hundreds of lectures around the United States about his experiences.
Read the whole thing.

It's about time that Jan Karski received recognition for what he did.
The pity is that Karski (24 April 1914 – 13 July 2000) did not get this recognition during his lifetime.

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