Washington DC - The United States Senate today unanimously passed a resolution honoring the legacy and accomplishments of Jan Karski on the centennial of his birth, to celebrate the legacy of the famous emissary from the Polish Underground during World War II. The late Jan Karski was among the first to provide eyewitness testimony to Allied leaders about the ongoing Holocaust in Nazi-German occupied Poland during the war, when millions of lives could have been saved.
The Senate resolution – which was initiated by the Jan Karski Educational Foundation in partnership with Polish History Museum in Warsaw – was introduced in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on March 5 by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The original co-sponsors of the bill are Sen. Mark S. Kirk (R-Illinois), and Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-IL), Majority Whip and a Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The resolution was referred from the Senate Judiciary Committee to the Senate floor.
His Excellency Ryszard Schnepf, Ambassador of the Republic of Poland to the United States, says that he is extremely pleased that Jan Karski's legacy has flourished not only in Poland – where 2014 was declared "Karski Year" by the Polish Parliament – but in America and worldwide. “This resolution offers a source of pride not only for all Poles but for people around the world. Jan Karski is a role model for heroism, dedication and humility.”
“I was lucky enough to study under Professor Jan Karski as a student at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service,” Sen. Durbin said. “He was an inspiring man who touched the lives of many people, and his spirit and compassion was displayed countless times both in Poland and the United States.”
“Countless men and women owe their thanks to Jan Karski's bravery during World War II, and it's important for us to remember his fearless dedication while exposing the horrors and injustices of the Holocaust,” Sen. Kirk said. “More than 1 million citizens of Polish descent currently reside in Chicago, and it is important to continue to honor Karski’s legacy and the rich history he shared with our nation.”
Jan Karski was born in Lodz, Poland on April 24, 1914, the youngest of eight children in a Roman Catholic family. He was a reserve officer in the Polish Armed Forces when the country was attacked in September 1939 first by the German Nazis and later by the Soviets. His war memoir, Story of a Secret State, was published to great acclaim in 1944, and re-issued in 2013 by Georgetown University Press. After the war, fearing persecution in communist Poland, Karski became an exile and later a naturalized American. In 1982, he was awarded Righteous Among the Nations designation by Yad Vashem and, in 1994, the honorary citizenship of Israel. In 1995, he was awarded Poland’s highest honor the White Eagle. President Barack Obama decorated Karski with a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom on May 29, 2012.
“The Senate declaration of support to memorialize Jan Karski on the centennial year of his birth is a rare resolution and a high honor,” says Jan Karski Educational Foundation Chairman Andrzej Rojek, “At this time, we remember a remarkable man – a bridge builder, a figure who unites and brings together different communities. What better role model could you ask for at this moment in world history?”
Foundation President Wanda Urbanska expressed thanks to members of the United States Stated who have supported this important resolution. At the same time, she cited those supporters of Karski who kicked off the campaign back in 2011, at the Polish Consulate in New York, under the leadership of Consul General Ewa Junczyk-Ziomecka. “We are appreciative of the Jan Karski Unfinished Mission international program at the Polish History Museum, the Polish Senate under the leadership of Sen.Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz. Our friends at the American Jewish Committee, the Kosciuszko Foundation, Georgetown University and many others have joined together to honor this great humanitarian and actor in world history.”
The mission of the Jan Karski Educational Foundation is to instill in the people of the United States – especially its youth – the values of leadership, courage, integrity and humanitarian action as exemplified by the life of Jan Karski. Further, foundation leaders seek to have Karski's books taught in the schools and to have his legacy known by all Americans. For more information, visit www.jankarski.net.