“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart.” (Luke 6:45)
Jan Karski, a Polish resistance fighter who unsuccessfully appealed to British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden and later urged President Franklin Roosevelt to bomb the train tracks leading to the Auschwitz death camp, was honored last week by Georgetown University on April 24, the 100th anniversary of his birth.
Karski, who died in 2000 at the age of 86, risked his life to bring his horrifying eye witness report of Jewish destruction to the Allies. After the war, he earned a Ph.D. from Georgetown and served as a professor in its Political Science department for 40 years.
President Bronislaw Komorowski was honorary patron of the events, which included international conferences, scholarships and educational programs.
Included also was the premier staged reading performance of “Remember This: Walking with Jan Karski,” featuring the Academy Award nominated actor David Strathairn as Karski.
Former Georgetown Jewish chaplain Rabbi Harold White described Karski as having been an “incredibly humble” man, especially about the risk that he had taken to bring the vital information to the authorities.
In fact, Karski never spoke of his exploits until being interviewed by French filmmaker Claude Lanzmann for his 1978 documentary “Shoah.”
Karski’s 1944 book, The Story of a Secret State, became a best-seller, and he has been honored in a variety of ways:
- Poland has named 2014 as the Year of Jan Karski.
- In 1982, Israel’s Yad Vashem (Holocaust Memorial) named him one of the Righteous Among the Nations, and Israel made him an honorary citizen in 1994.
- President Barack Obama awarded him a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom.
- Benches with his seated statue are featured in New York City at the corner of 37th Street and Madison Avenue, on the grounds of Georgetown University, in Kielce, Łódź and Warsaw, Poland, and at the University of Tel Aviv campus in Israel.