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Nicholas Kristof Receives the 2016 Spirit of Jan Karski Award

Nicholas Kristof speaks to the audience at The New School (Photo: Julian Voloj) Nicholas Kristof speaks to the audience at The New School (Photo: Julian Voloj)

The Jan Karski Educational Foundation held the Spirit of Jan Karski Award Ceremony on November 1 at the New School for Social Research in New York City, to honor this year's recipient, Nicholas Kristof. Among the honored guest were Andrzej Rojek, Chairman of the Board of the Jan Karski Educational Foundation; Ewa Junczyk-Ziomecka, President of Fundacja Edukacyjna Jana Karskiego in Warsaw, Poland; William Milberg, Dean of The New School for Social Research; and Robert Kostrzewa, Vice Dean, New School for Social Research. The event gathered over 200 attendees including Karski's former students and fans, the Foundation’s supporters, NSSR students and representatives of the media.

During his welcoming remarks, Dean Milberg talked about the history of the school, going back to 1933 when Jewish scholars from Germany, who had been fired after Hitler came to power, were brought to what was then called University of Exile, and about its tradition of fostering critical thinking towards current events. Jeffrey Goldfarb, Michael E. Gellert Professor of Sociology and editor-in-chief of the Public Seminar at The New School reminded the audience about Karski’s courage, authenticity and humility and talked about Kristof as an embodiment of what Karski stood for. He said that Kristof works tirelessly to make the apparently inconceivable conceivable and to incite action.

In his acceptance speech, Nicholas Kristof said that he is often asked, how he can stay so positive while witnessing the horrors of today’s world. His response is always that in the midst of the worst of the humanity, one also finds the best. “When we think of World War II, we think of Hitler, but there was also Jan Karski,” he said and gave an example of a modern hero embodied in a Polish nun, who has been running an orphanage in the war-ridden Congo. Kristof said that if Karski were alive, he would definitely get involved not only in the refugee crisis, but also in the struggle against poverty, disease, malnutrition, and lack of education. Kristof challenged us all to hold media accountable for their responsibility to address the most pressing issues.

The Spirit of Jan Karski Award was presented to Nicholas Kristof by Andrzej Rojek on behalf of the Foundation’s Board, for “his unflagging efforts to draw public attention to humanitarian issues around the world through his passionate reporting and powerful writing.”

Nicholas Kristof is The New York Times columnist, two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner, and an influential voice drawing public attention to humanitarian issues around the world, such as human trafficking and war crimes. His coverage of Tiananmen Square protests and the Darfur genocide, as well as his reports about the violations of human rights across the globe have raised awareness about the humanitarian crisis the world faces today.

The evening was enriched with the trailer of Karski & The Lords of Humanity by Emmy Award filmmaker Sławomir Grunberg, which opened the evening. This celebrated documentary talks about Karski and his mission to inform the West about the situation in Nazi Germany occupied Poland, especially about the terrible plight of the Jews. The superb performance by the Rafał Sarnecki jazz trio set the tone of the evening with a poignant theme by Andrzej Kurylewicz from "Polskie drogi" (Polish Roads), a Polish TV series which presented compelling stories of the struggles that several Polish families had to endure during WWII.  The trio also performed Karski's favorite tango "To ostatnia niedziela" (This is the Last Sunday) and Sarnecki's original composition, which he wrote while he was a student at the New School.

Please read our enlightening interview with Mr. Kristof that delves into his philosophy.

The event was organized in collaboration with the New School for Social Research and was made possible thanks to the generous support of the following sponsors: the Polish Army Veterans Association of America, Inglot Cosmetics, Charter Oak, and the Polish Cultural Institute in New York. The Jan Karski Educational Foundation would like to thank all partners and sponsors for their support.