On this Date in Jewish History: July 13, 2000
Reflecting on this day, we remember the life and legacy of Jan Karski, a Polish Resistance Fighter and a beacon of justice, deemed the Righteous Among The Nations. He passed away at the age of 86.
Jan Karski: The Early Years
Born Jan Kozielewski on June 24, 1914, in Łódź, Poland, Karski was brought up as a Catholic among a brood of siblings. Following the demise of his father when he was young, he grew up in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood. This marked the start of Karski’s journey that would eventually lead him to becoming a prominent figure among the Righteous Among the Nations.
Stepping into Diplomacy and Military Service
Karski’s journey of dedication and service continued as he enrolled in military training and rose to become a leader in his regiment. He completed his diplomatic apprenticeship between 1935 and 1938, serving in different countries. This experience equipped him with the skills needed to confront the brewing storm of the Second World War.
Resistance and Escaping Internment
As WWII unfolded, Jan Karski found himself a prisoner of war (POW) in the General Government Zone of Poland after the German invasion. Determined to resist, he managed to escape and took an active part in the Polish resistance movement, marking a pivotal moment in his journey as a Righteous Among the Nations.
Jan Karski: Bearing Witness to the Holocaust
Throughout 1940, Karski started reporting to the governments in Britain, Poland, and the US, documenting the atrocities committed against the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto. His evidence formed one of the earliest and most accurate accounts of the Holocaust, leading to a broader understanding of Nazi crimes.
Legacy of Jan Karski
Karski’s accounts helped lead to the formation of the War Refugee Board and, following the war’s end, to the establishment of The Office of High Commissioner for Refugees. Karski’s tireless work during WWII served as a beacon of hope and justice, solidifying his place as a Righteous Among the Nations.
Besson, Rémy (May 2011). “Le Rapport Karski. Une voix qui résonne comme une source (The Karski Report. A Voice with the Ring of Truth, translated by John Tittensour)”. Études photographiques (27). Retrieved 16 August 2020.
Jan Karski (5 May 2011). Story of a Secret State: My Report to the World: My Report to the World. Penguin Books Limited. pp. 407ff. ISBN 978-0-14-196844-5.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Poland (10 December 1942). The Mass Extermination of Jews in German Occupied Poland (PDF). New York: Roy Publishers. Retrieved 19 June 2021.