Polish Catholic Honored for Exposing Holocaust
26 Apr 2012 by Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON (CNS) — Jan Karski, the late
Polish-American professor who tried to alert the world to
the horrors of the Holocaust, will be honored with the
Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nations highest
civilian honor, President Barack Obama announced April
23 during an event at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial
Karski was an officer in the Polish underground
during World War II when he witnessed some of the
atrocities being committed under Nazi occupation. A
Catholic, Karski has long been honored in the Jewish
community for his efforts to bring attention to the horrors
After being captured by Soviet and then Nazi
forces and escaping both times, Karski tried to warn
President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Supreme Court Justice
Felix Frankfurter and British Foreign Secretary Anthony
Eden about what was happening to Europes Jews under
the Nazis, but he was not believed.
In a tribute at the Holocaust Museum the year
after Karski died in 2000, then-president of Georgetown
University Jesuit Father Leo ODonovan said that Karski would say of his mission that it was a failure, but his story is not a story of failure.
Karski published Story of a Secret State, about what he saw and went on to earn a doctorate at
Georgetown. He became a professor at its School of
Foreign Service and taught government and East
European history for nearly 40 years. He became a U.S.
citizen in 1954.
His courage speaks to us still, Father
ODonovan said at the 2001 memorial service. Like all great heroes, he challenges us to accept its mantle.
In his remarks April 23 at the Holocaust Museum,
Obama said honoring Karski is a part of making sure such
atrocities never happen again.
We must tell our children about how this evil
was allowed to happen — because so many people
succumbed to their darkest instincts; because so many
others stood silent, he said. But let us also tell our children about the Righteous Among the Nations. Among them was Jan Karski — a young Polish Catholic — who witnessed Jews being put on cattle cars, who saw the killings, and who told the truth, all the way to President Roosevelt himself.
Karski will be honored along with other recipients
of the Medal of Freedom at a ceremony later in the spring,
according to the White House.
Tags: Catholic-Jewish relations Holocaust Polish