International Tribute to Jan Karski During a Commemoration at the Polish Consulate in Chicago

 Two hundred guests, among them Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, members of the Chicago Consular Corps and leaders in the Polish-American and Jewish American communities met Thursday, April 24, 2014 at the Polish Consulate in Chicago to honor the memory of Jan Karski on the centennial of his birth.

The commemoration at the Polish Consulate in Chicago was also attended by Holocaust survivors, Righteous Among the Nations, participants in the Warsaw Uprising 1944, Home Army veterans and Polish Siberian Exiles. The commemorative program was titled “Jan Karski – the History, the Legacy and the Responsibility”.

The commemoration was organized by the Consulate General of Poland in Chicago with honorary partnership of the Jan Karski Educational Foundation Chicago, the American Jewish Committee Chicago and the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.

“Jan Karski was a true war hero who risked his life to make a difference during one of the darkest times in our world’s history,” Governor Quinn said. “I was honored to sit in his class and hear firsthand his remarkable accounts of the Holocaust, just as I am honored to celebrate his legacy today. We will never forget Jan Karski’s fortitude or extraordinary fight for a just cause. The belief that one person can make a difference is personified by Jan Karski.”

The ceremony was held on the “Jan Karski Day in the State of Illinois”, proclaimed by Governor Pat Quinn.

The program featured a panel discussion between historians and sociologists and covered the following subjects:

* “Poland in the heart of Jews and Jews in the heart of Poland – a Civilization Jan Karski Hoped to Save” by Michael H. Traison,

* “Jan Karski, the Polish Government-in-Exile and the Polish Home Army during WWII” by Neal Pease, Professor of History, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee,

* “Jan Karski’s broader legacy for humanity” by Allan Reich, American Jewish Committee,

* “Jan Karski – The Messenger” by Thaddeus Radzilowski, historian, sociologist, President of the Piast Institute,

* The discussion was moderated by Keely Stauter-Halsted, Professor of History, Hejna Chair in Polish History, University of Illinois at Chicago 

During the program guests saw a short film with Jan Karski’s testimony, titled “The World Knew” prepared by the Polish History Museum and Poland’s Foreign Ministry. Guests also had a chance to view the Polish History Museum’s exhibit entitled “The World Knew”, which will soon open at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Skokie beginning September 17, 2014.

Jan Karski was a Polish diplomat and officer of the Polish Secret State during WWII. He was the first one to provide eye-witness accounts of the Holocaust to the Free World. It was through his words that occupied Poland alarmed the world about the German Nazi extermination of Jews. Jan Karski published ‘Story of a Secret State’, one of the most poignant and inspiring accounts of his experiences and efforts to stop the Holocaust. After the war, Jan Karski emigrated to the United States and earned a Ph.D. at Georgetown University, becoming a professor at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service. For his bravery and stance against the German Nazi evil, President Barack Obama posthumously awarded Jan Karski the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the U.S. highest civilian honor. For his efforts to save Jews, the State of Israel awarded Jan Karski the Yad Vashem medal of Righteous Among the Nations. Jan Karski died in 2000.

Photos and videos from the commemoration of Jan Karski’s centennial of birth on April 24, 2014 can be viewed on the Consulate’s facebook page (link below).

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To get updates on various programs organized by the Polish Consulate General in Chicago, follow us on:

Facebook at Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in Chicago

Twitter: @PLinChicago

and visit our website: www.chicago.mfa.gov.pl

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