'I do not pretend to have given an exhaustive picture of the Polish Underground, its organization and its activities. Because of our methods, I believe that there is no one today who could give an all-embracing recital...This book is a purely personal story, my story.' Jan Karski's 1944 war memoir is a heroic act of witness: the courageous testimony of a man who risked everything for his country. At times overwhelming in the details it reveals of the suffering of ordinary people, it is an unforgettable and deeply affecting record of brutality, courage, and survival under conditions of extreme bleakness. During the first four years of World War II, Karski worked as a messenger for the underground, risking his life in secret missions. He was captured, tortured, rescued, smuggled through a tunnel into the Warsaw ghetto and, finally, disguised himself as a guard to infiltrate a Nazi death camp. Then, travelling across occupied Europe to England, with his eye-witness report smuggled on microfilm in the handle of a razor, he became the first man to tell the Allies about the Holocaust - only to be ignored.
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Karski was his nom de guerre; he had been born Jan Kozielewski, the youngest of eight children, in Lodz, Poland's second-largest city, on 24 June, 1914. Karski was a liaison officer of the Polish underground, who infiltrated both the Warsaw Ghetto and a German concentration camp and then carried the first eyewitness accounts of the Holocaust to a mostly disbelieving Anthony Eden and Franklin Roosevelt.Review:
"Jan Karski's brave account of the Nazi's horrific crimes and one man's heroic resistance strikes our collective conscience as strongly today as when he first published it over six decades ago. Today, millions around the world continue to thank and honor him for exposing the evil that was perpetuated throughout concentration camps. When President Barack Obama posthumously awarded Jan Karski the Medal of Freedom he recognized that Karski's story is one of courage as much as compassion. This book is a stirring reminder that our world depends on both."―Rahm Emanuel, Mayor, City of Chicago
"The notion that one person can make a difference is personified by Jan Karski, who I was privileged to have as my professor―and guiding light―at Georgetown School of Foreign Service. Karski's Story of a Secret State offers a glimpse into a time and place ruled by Nazi terror: Poland in the early 1940s. Karski risked his life to bear witness to Nazi atrocities against Jews, Catholics, and Polish dissidents. In disguise, he snuck into the Warsaw Ghetto and a Nazi transfer camp, then reported his terrifying observations directly to British leaders and President Franklin Roosevelt, among the first reports of the holocaust to the civilized world. Georgetown's edition of Story of a Secret State gives a new generation of readers the portrait of a genuine hero who truly made a difference."―Pat Quinn, Governor of Illinois; Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, 1971
"The Anti-Defamation League is proud to have named its Jan Karski Courage to Care award for an extraordinary man, who put conscience to action―and his own life at risk―to reveal the Holocaust to the West. Read his story and be inspired by Karski's will, his spirit, and his commitment to humanity."―Abraham H. Foxman, national director, Anti-Defamation League
"Within Jan Karski's stirring account of selfless heroism to expose the Holocaust, lie two compelling messages: It is possible for one man to bring to the world's attention unimaginable political evil. The harder and still relevant question raised by Karski's story is: How does one get the civilized world to respond?"―Daniel Henninger, Wall Street Journal
"A decade before Professor Karski began his remarkable tenure at Georgetown's School of Foreign Service, he was already teaching by the power of example―with lessons of heroism, resilience, and uncompromising leadership. All freedom-seeking people around the world should know Karski's story."―President Bill Clinton
"Jan Karski is well known as the 'courier from Poland who exposed the Holocaust,' but his work in the service of the underground Polish state, which flourished under the noses of the Nazis, equally deserves to find the limelight. Unlike its counterparts in other countries, The Polish Resistance Movement did not confine itself to military activities; it created a huge network of clandestine organizations, which functioned in the fields of culture, education, propaganda, justice and economics, and which undermined the social control of the German forces of occupation. Karski's book on this subject is a classic, providing an unmatched account of the wartime realities in a country that lay at the epicenter of the conflict."―Norman Davies, St. Antony's College, Oxford, Jagiellonian University, Krakow
"This gripping book gives a comprehensive account of the Nazi occupation of Poland by a young courier in the Polish Underground, who sought to bring home to Western statesmen the tragic fate of his country and of his Jewish fellow-citizens. It is essential reading for all those interested in the Second World War."―Antony Polonsky, Albert Abramson Professor of Holocaust Studies, Brandeis University
"I have been blessed to know many distinguished people, great artists, musicians, scholars, philosophers, political leaders and activists. Yet I have only known one man, whom I would truly call noble, my late colleague, Jan Karski. Story of a Secret State is both his most important book and his most failed book; important, because as a messenger from Poland, Karski tried to tell the world of what was happening in his native land to the Jews whose pleas he carried forth to the West. It was a warning issued while there was still time to act, still an opportunity to rescue or at least to protest. His most failed book―though it was widely read and well received when published―because we did not listen attentively enough to what this great man had to say. We must listen now even though it is too late."―Michael Berenbaum, Director, Sigi Ziering Institute; Professor of Jewish Studies, American Jewish University
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