1. Jan Karski (born Kozielewski, 1914-2000) was born on 24 June 1914, in Łódż, a multicultural city with a population of indigenous Poles as well as Germans, Russians and Jews.

2. Due to his talent for learning foreign languages, his brilliant - almost photographic - memory, his education (Karski graduated, among other things, in diplomacy from the University of Lviv) and his good looks, he saw his future in diplomacy, and this was his first professional experience. He was also highly regarded at the School of Horse Artillery Cadets in Wlodzimierz Wolynski (he graduated with the rank of second lieutenant).

3. Due to the growing threat of German aggression in the late summer of that year, he was mobilized as a Horse Artillery officer and in that rank, he took part in the September campaign. Taken into Soviet captivity, he managed to escape during the exchange of Polish prisoners of war agreed upon with the Germans (in the uniform of a private, as only they were included in the exchange). After reaching Warsaw, he became involved in underground activities.

4. During one courier mission, carried out within the structures of the resistance movement, Karski was captured by the Germans and subjected to brutal interrogation. Fearing that he might reveal information known to him, he made an unsuccessful suicide attempt, and was later freed thanks to the generosity of local conspirators. As a result, he once again joined the ranks of the independence underground.

5. He was twice in the Warsaw Ghetto, as well as in the Izbica transit ghetto, which resulted in his reports on the situation of Polish citizens of Jewish origin under German occupation. At the end of 1942, he bravely managed to make his way to the British enclave at Gibraltar, and then to London, where he submitted the aforementioned documentation to representatives of decision-making circles in Great Britain and soon also in the United States (he met with President Roosevelt). The reaction of the aforementioned, however, was far from his expectations, as - faced with the fate of the victims of the Germans' genocidal policies - world leaders and statesmen de facto showed their indifference.

6. Even during World War II, Karski tried to disseminate information about the efforts of the Polish underground in the struggle against the Germans and the tragic fate of the Jews exterminated by the occupiers. The result was a book entitled. "The Secret State," which he dictated from memory. The book almost immediately gained the status of a bestseller (in Poland, it was published in the 1990s).   

7. After the end of the war, Karski joined the academic staff of Georgetown University, in time attaining the rank of Professor of Political Science. In addition, he was recognized with the highest civilian honors awarded in the United States (including the posthumously awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom) and the title of Righteous Among the Nations. In Poland, he was awarded the Commander's Cross with Star of the Order of Polonia Restituta (1994), the Order of the White Eagle (1995) and the Virtuti Militari (twice). After his death, he was posthumously promoted by President Andrzej Duda to the rank of Brigadier General.

He is commemorated by a series of sculptures in the form of so-called benches, the first of which was installed in September 2002 on the grounds of the aforementioned Georgetown University.


Deputy Foreign Minister Arkadiusz Mularczyk and Director of the Jan Karski War Loss Institute Prof. Konrad Wnęk at the famous Jan Karski bench at Georgetown University in Washington.


J. Karski, Tajne państwo. Opowieść o polskim podziemiu, Warszawa 1999

J. Karski, Wielkie mocarstwa wobec Polski 1919-1945. Od Wersalu do Jałty, Poznań 2014

J. Korczak, Karski, Warszawa 2001

W. Piasecki, Jan Karski. Jedno życie. Kompletna historia, t. I-II, Kraków 2015-2017

E. T. Wood, Karski: opowieść o emisariuszu, Kraków 1996

We encourage you to watch the film dedicated to Jan Karski on ninateka.pl.