July 14, 2000
Eyewitness Karski Dies
By The Associated Press
Poland (AP) -- Jan
Karski, a former Polish diplomat who
provided early eyewitness accounts of the
Holocaust to the West during World War II,
has died. He was 86.
Karski died Thursday at Georgetown
University Hospital in Washington, D.C., a
university spokeswoman said. The Polish
embassy there confirmed that he died of
heart and kidney ailments.
Born Jan Kozielewski in 1914 in
the central industrial Polish city of
Lodz, he joined the Polish diplomatic
service in 1935 and served as artillery
officer in the September 1939 campaign
against the Nazi invasion. He was captured
by the Red Army after the Soviets invaded
Poland from the East a few weeks later,
but escaped to join the underground.
His excellent memory and courage made
him a courier. As an officer in the Polish
resistance, he made four runs to the West
with reports from underground leaders to
the exiled Polish government. He was
captured in Slovakia in 1940 and tortured
by the Nazi Gestapo, but he escaped with
the help of Polish partisans who attacked
In 1942, disguised as a Nazi guard,
Karski sneaked into the Izbica death camp
in eastern Poland and twice entered the
Warsaw Ghetto, where he witnessed mass
killing and torture of Jews. He brought
his story to the West, briefing political
and religious leaders in London and then
meeting personally with President
report, and pressure from the Polish
exiles, led to the Allies' 1942
statement condemning German crimes
against the Jews. But in the months
that followed, when Karski tried to
tell his stories to Allied leaders,
they reacted with silence and took no
concrete action, Karski said.
"Maybe they did
not believe, maybe they thought I was
exaggerating," he said in a 1995
interview with The Associated Press.
"Roosevelt did not show any feelings,
did not make any comment," he recalled.
"He told me to repeat in Poland that the
Allies will win the war and that the
criminals will be punished."
"Story of a Secret State," a book
Karski wrote about the resistance
movement, life in occupied Poland and Nazi
atrocities, first appeared in 1944 in the
United States and became a bestseller.
After the war, communist leaders
seeking to claim all credit for opposing
and ousting the Nazis denied the existence
of the Polish underground Home Army, which
operated on orders from democratic
Poland's government-in-exile in London.
Thousands of Home Army fighters were
jailed and many were sentenced to death on
charges fabricated by the communists.
Karski settled in the United States and
lectured on international affairs at
Georgetown University in Washington.
"The entire Georgetown University
community is grateful and proud that he
chose to share his gifts with us for
nearly forty years," the Rev. Leo J.
O'Donovan, Georgetown's president,
said in a statement.
Only after communism fell in 1989 was
Karski able to visit his homeland. After
that, he divided his time between Poland
and a home in Chevy Chase, Md.
Karski will be buried at Mount Olive
cemetery in Bethesda, Md. His grave will
be next to that of his late wife, actress
Pola Nirenska, who died in 1992,
the PAP news agency said.©
Copyright 2000 The Associated
invite our readers to submit
observations and knowledge on Jan Karski
and his reports from Nazi occupied Poland,
and (in 1940) from the NKVD-occupied