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Jan Karski
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Military Personnel
    (April 24, 1914-July 13, 2000)
    Born in Lodz, Poland
    Birth name was Jan Kozielewski
    Member of the Polish resistance during World War II
    Informed the Polish government-in-exile and Western Allies about the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto and the Nazi extermination camps
    Became a naturalized US citizen (1954)
    Became a professor of government and international affairs at Georgetown University
    Wrote 'Courier from Poland: The Story of a Secret State' (1944) and 'The Great Powers and Poland' (1985)
    Interviewed in the documentary 'Shoah' (1985)
    He chain smoked.
    His attempt to bring the Holocaust to the attention of the Allies had little effect, as the politicians he met with often refused to believe him and would not alter their strategies to make rescuing Jews a priority.
    When he was awarded a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom, Barack Obama referred to 'a Polish death camp,' seriously offending the Polish government and people.
    He escaped from a train taking him to a POW camp and joined the Polish underground.
    He was assigned work as a courier because he had a photographic memory.
    During one mission, he was captured by the Gestapo and tortured (July, 1940).
    Fearing he would reveal secret information, he slashed his wrists and was taken to a hospital, from which an underground commando squad helped him escape.
    To witness Nazi atrocities in Poland, he was twice smuggled into the Warsaw Ghetto, and, disguised as a Ukrainian camp guard, infiltrated the sorting and transit facilities for the Belzec death camp.
    His meeting with FDR did at least lead to the establishment of the War Refugee Board (which, among other activities, funded Raoul Wallenberg's mission to rescue the Jews of Hungary).
    After the fall of Communism in Poland, his wartime service was finally recognized by his homeland and he received Poland's highest civilian and military awards.
    Elie Wiesel called him 'a masterpiece of courage, integrity and humanism.'

Credit: C. Fishel


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