Another story of heroism that we rarely read about (see the penultimate paragraph in the excerpt below). And for those who study resistance the Polish resistance should be a case study.
But what a chilling statement in the first paragraph in the excerpt below (and Roosevelt's apparent reaction to it). We should never forget man's capacity for crimes against humanity as there are others around the world even today who have the same capacity as Hitler and the Nazis.
And we should keep in mind the final paragraph in the excerpt below and hope to emulate his character but also that we should remember to listen to and respect those who are on the ground as the man in the arena who bring us knowledge and information upon which we should act. And lastly I wonder how many other Jan Karskis are at universities throughout the US and the world. I only wish I had been at Georgetown when he was alive.
On June 28, Karski was invited to the White House to brief President Roosevelt. In describing the Polish situation, the courier emphasized a key point. “Mr. President, a distinction has to be made. The Germans persecute my people; they deny us education, send us to concentration camps, they want to make us a nation of slaves. With the Jews, it is different. They want to exterminate them.”Roosevelt offered no comment. “He asked questions, questions, but not a single question about the Jews,” Karski recalled. The president’s final message: “You will tell the leaders that we will win this war! You will tell them that the guilty ones will be punished. Justice and freedom shall prevail. You will tell your nation that they have a friend in this house.”After making so many visits to top officials in both capitals, Karski’s cover was blown and he remained in the United States. He wrote his Story of A Secret State, which was a huge critical and commercial success—but then this extraordinary account was largely forgotten. He became a highly respected professor of East European and international affairs at Georgetown University, although for many years he did not mention his personal story to his students.But his story was gradually rediscovered and, as he began discussing it again, he always downplayed the danger of his actions. Speaking of the underground resistance, he wrote: “For the most part, our work was probably less thrilling, less of an adventure, than the work of a carpenter, and wholly devoid of sensational exploits.” That was only the false note in his descriptions of his experiences, born of an instinctive discomfort of portrayals of him as the hero he truly was.When I visited Karski in his apartment in Chevy Chase, Maryland two years before his death in 2000, he was surrounded by the many awards he had collected from Israel, the United States and Poland. But he was not boastful in any way. In fact, his entire demeanor suggested that he felt that in one critical respect his mission had ended in failure. He had been clearly hurt by the refusal of British and American leaders to believe him all those years ago—and that fact still stung at the end of his life. Despite all the tributes that followed, he never claimed success.