Thought for the Day

"By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest." - Confucius

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Infiltrated a Ghetto to Expose the Nazis, But Nobody Would Believe Him

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.

thedailybeast.com

Infiltrated a Ghetto to Expose the Nazis, But Nobody Would Believe Him

  • by Andrew Nagorski 
  •  
  •  7 min read 
  •  original
Jan Karski was a courier for the Polish underground determined to bring evidence of Nazi inhumanity—but the West wasn’t ready to listen.
In the summer of 1942, Jan Karski, a 28-year-old courier for the Polish underground, was instructed to undertake an extremely dangerous mission: a trip across Nazi-occupied Europe to London, where, with the help of the Polish government-in-exile there, he was to brief top Allied officials about what was happening in his native land. He was then to continue his journey to Washington, where once again he was supposed to meet with the highest officials.
Before his departure, Karski gathered messages from the leaders of various underground organizations that he would convey to the West, including from two leaders of the Jewish resistance who had managed to slip out of the Warsaw ghetto to meet him in a half-ruined house on the outskirts of the city.
Karski was well-suited for his mission. Growing up in the manufacturing city of Lodz, he was a devout Catholic who adhered to his mother’s teachings about respecting those of other faiths, particularly the city’s large Jewish population. Before the war, he had spent time in Germany, Switzerland and England, all part of his preparation for an anticipated diplomatic career. He also did his military service and was called up again on the eve of the war. When the occupation started, he quickly joined the rapidly growing underground.
As Karski recalled both in his powerful book The Story of A Secret State, published in the United States in 1944, and in an interview with me in 1998 when he could reveal some additional details, the Jewish leaders he met before his departure to London came straight to the point. “Hitler has decided to murder all the Jews in Europe,” one of them told him. The other leader started to cry. “We cannot hope that the Poles will help us. Poles can save individuals but they cannot stop the destruction of the Jews. Approach as many people as possible—the English, the Americans, whoever. Tell them that we are dying.”
The other message: The Allies need to scatter leaflets across Germany holding the entire population responsible for this mass murder, telling them they would face wholesale reprisals. They should also publicly execute Germans, “any they can get hold of” anywhere in the world.
Karski replied that such retribution was impossible to imagine, and the demand would horrify everyone. One of the leaders conceded: “We do not dream of it being fulfilled, but nevertheless we demand it,” since this would demonstrate “how helpless we are, how desperate our plight is, how little we stand to gain from an Allied victory as things are now.”
(Continued at the link below)

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