Oak Park, IL – The World Knew: Jan Karski’s Mission for Humanity exhibition was the centerpiece of the Oak Park Public Library’s 2015 Humanity 101, a series of events presented in cooperation with Project Humanities at Arizona State University. It was open throughout the month of October. The kick-off reception, held on October 1, featured speaker Leonard Kniffel, Executive Director of the Polish American Librarians Association, local WWII Lancer reenactors, and a multimedia presentation on Jan Karski’s life and work. More than 30 people attended the reception.
Dr. Neal Lester, Foundation Professor of English and Founding Director of Project Humanities at Arizona State University viewed the exhibit and shared this endorsement:
Particularly in the midst of unspeakable human trauma are those whose lives remind each of us that we have not lost our humanity. The pages of world history are darkened by the evil actions of a few. A bright light beckons us onward and restores our faith when a life of selflessness and courage shows us that we are at once vulnerable and strong. Jan Karski's life and legacy inspire, encourage, embody, and embolden our Project Humanities Humanity 101 values: respect, integrity, empathy, forgiveness, kindness, compassion and self-reflection.
After seeing the exhibition, the attendees were asked to respond to the question, “What was the most important thing you learned?” Below are selected responses (slightly edited for clarity):
“Very simply, Jan Karski's story is a very interesting and very important story, and should be mentioned in any discussion of righteous people, such as Wallenberg and Schindler. I had not heard of him prior to this event.”
“I have learned about an amazing person who I had never heard of before. Thank you!”
“The Polish-Jewish connection during WWII has never been explained in this type of detail before. Therefore, the Polish national suffering was not known to me.”
“Karski was greatly recognized. The book he wrote was excellent. He should never be forgotten, nor his message.”
“A very enlightening exhibit. I had never heard of Jan Karski before! “
“That human compassion and strength can withstand the forces of evil! I can be very proud of my Polish heritage!”
The Oak Park Public Library also curated related WW II speakers, films and book discussions chronicling the diversity of the WW II experience to support the exhibit.
Cynthia Landrum, Assistant Director for Public Services at the Oak Park Public Library contributed to this story.
The tour of The World Knew: Jan Karski's Mission for Humanity traveling exhibition is organized by the Jan Karski Educational Foundation. The exhibition was created by the Polish History Museum with a major support from the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Additional funding was provided by the National Endowment for Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this exhibition publication do not necessarily reflect those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.