Alerting the World: Jan Karski
Portrait of Jan Karski during his mission to the United States to inform government leaders about Nazi policy in Poland. Washington, DC, July 1, 1943. US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Jan Karski
Statue of Karski on the campus of Georgetown University, where he was a professor for four decades. Washington, DC. dcMemorials.com More
Jan Karski (standing), underground courier for the Polish government-in-exile who informed the west in the fall of 1942 about Nazi atrocities against Jews taking place in Poland. Pictured in his office in Washington, DC, United States, 1944. US Holocaust Memorial Museum
Portrait of Jan Karski in Bethesda, Maryland, ca 1988. US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Rescuers: Portraits of Moral Courage in the Holocaust
Jan Karski and General Colin Powell meet during the opening ceremonies of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. Washington, DC, April 22, 1993. US Holocaust Memorial Museum
2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Jan Karski (1914–2000), one of the first to deliver eyewitness accounts of the Holocaust to Allied leaders during the war. A courier in the Polish underground, Karski was smuggled in and out of the Warsaw ghetto and a transit camp at Izbica, where he saw for himself the horrors suffered by Jews under Nazi occupation including mass starvation and transports of Jews en route to the Belzec killing center.
In 1942, Karski traveled to London where he delivered a report to the Polish government-in-exile and to senior British authorities including Foreign Minister Anthony Eden. He described what he had seen and warned of Nazi Germany’s plans to murder European Jews. In July 1943 Karski journeyed to Washington and met with American President Franklin D. Roosevelt to give the same warning and plead for action. Allied governments were focused on the military defeat of Germany, and Karski’s message was greeted with disbelief or indifference. Spurred by the memory of the Holocaust, for the rest of his life Karski worked tirelessly for Polish-Jewish understanding and to honor the memory of all victims of Nazism.