Polish History Museum polski

Prestigious Award for “Remember This: The Lesson of Jan Karski” Artists

Clark Young, David Strathairn, and Derek Goldman awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland (Photo: Alex Szopa/Courtesy of the Embassy of the Republic of Poland) Clark Young, David Strathairn, and Derek Goldman awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland (Photo: Alex Szopa/Courtesy of the Embassy of the Republic of Poland)

Congratulations to the creators of the theatrical production Remember This: The Lesson of Jan KarskiDerek Goldman (co-writer and director), Clark Young (co-writer), and David Strathairn (actor portraying Jan Karski)—on receiving the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland, “for their contribution to promoting the values that Jan Karski stood for.” This Order of Merit, established in 1974, is the most prestigious civil award granted to foreigners or Poles residing abroad for significant service to Poland.

The award ceremony took place on June 17 in Washington, D.C., at the residence of the Ambassador of the Republic of Poland to the U.S., Marek Magierowski, and was organized by the Polish Embassy in partnership with the American Jewish Committee. The event was attended by many notables: Cynthia Schneider, a Distinguished Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and co-director of The Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics (The Lab), Ijeoma Njaka, The Lab’s Senior Learning Designer for Transformational and Inclusive Initiatives, as well as Karski’s former students, Carol Harrison, Thomas M. Sneeringer, Gerry Chiaruttini, and Peter A. McGrath. The Jan Karski Educational Foundation, which was instrumental in the Remember This project’s international success, was represented by the Chairman of the JKEF Board, Andrzej Rojek, and the Director for Programming, Bożena U. Zaremba.

The event speakers, Ambassador Marek Magierowski, Adrian Chrobot, The Embassy’s Political Counselor, and Thomas Kahn, Co-Chair of AJC’s Central Europe Institute, emphasized Karski’s heroism and praised the artists for creating a powerful tool for fostering social conscience about global issues.

“All of you who know Karski’s story know how intensely he insisted that ‘I am an insignificant little man. My mission is important.' And it is no false modesty that we see ourselves very much as ‘insignificant little men’—that it has been an incredible privilege to be humble messengers of what I know we in this room all see as the true significance of Karski’s story and the example it offers for our time,” Derek Goldman said while accepting the honor. “…For us, this project has always been a current events piece more than a history play. And in the decade that we have been developing and sharing it in various forms, those unspooling global events have continued to resound in so many harrowing and haunting ways with Karski’s story. Amidst this, it became very important to us that the piece be as faithful as possible to the historical record—that it honors Karski’s adage that ‘All I can say is that I saw it, is and it is the truth.’ For us, it is not a vehicle or instrument for any partisan political argument of ours, but rather, it attempts to embody Karski’s belief in the common humanity of people…. Despite feeling a failure, Karski devoted his life to teaching young people and sought to enlighten the world about what he had witnessed and attempted to expose. Karski’s story speaks to the status of truth, of the responsibility of individuals to question, to bear witness to history, and to speak out, even when the message is not ‘convenient.’… ‘Don’t make distinctions,’ Karski tells us. But as we stand here, we all know that across the globe, distinctions are being made now, every minute, and there are countless individual human beings whose humanity is being stripped daily in much the same ways Karski witnessed firsthand and tried to warn the world about.” (See link to full text below.)

In his acceptance speech, Clark Young said “For me, Jan Karski came to represent the inconvenient things we choose to ignore every day and the many tactics—from self-interest and heartless rationalization to outright denial—that allow us to see only ourselves, our problems, our desire to matter at the sacrifice of seeing what we are capable of doing to one another...Today, when I reflect on Jan Karski’s experience inside the Warsaw Ghetto—his guide begging him to remember the horrors he witnessed, to urge America to do something, anything, to stop it—I see see the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The displacement, the starvation, the suffering, the killing of the Palestinian people. Karski’s reports of the suffering in the Ghetto met America’s willful ignorance; the suffering in Gaza enfolds with America’s willful support… This is the gift of a complicated story about our failures as nation states and as peoples. We can be honest with each other. We can assume the responsibility of the difficult conversation. We can, as Jan Karski urges us, remember that we all have infinite capacity to do good and infinite capacity to do evil. We make these choices every day, and that means we can make different ones tomorrow.” (See link to full text below.)

David Strathairn talked about his first encounter with Jan Karski while watching the documentary Shoah—which features Karski’s unforgettable testimony—and how it changed his life. He called actors the messengers of stories about human experience. For him, the fundamental message of the Karski legacy is that we need to take care of each other.

A beautiful Chopin recital by Brian Ganz, a Washington, D.C.-based classical pianist and educator, completed the evening. Ganz presented an intense rendition of the Polish composer’s favorite compositions along with a thought-provoking commentary on the connection between Chopin’s music and the Karski legacy. The event was enhanced by Carol Harrison’s evocative photographs of Jan Karski displayed on the ceremony hall’s walls.


About the Remember This Project

The theatrical play Remember This: The Lesson of Jan Karski evolved from a stage reading—created by The Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics at Georgetown University to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Jan Karski’s birth in 2014—into a celebrated theatrical one-man show starring Academy Award-nominated actor David Strathairn (Good Night, and Good Luck, Lincoln, Nomadland, Where the Crawdads Sing) delivering a stunning performance as the Polish WWII hero and Holocaust witness. Since then, the play has had many critically acclaimed performances, continuing its showings in the U.S. (Washington, D.C., Chicago, New York, and Berkeley, CA) and worldwide (including in the United Kingdom, Spain, and Poland).

In early 2023, a four-city tour of the play in Poland was organized and financed by the Jan Karski Educational Foundation (U.S.) and Fundacja Edukacyjna Jana Karskiego (Poland) and received an enthusiastic reception.

The movie Remember This, based on the theatrical production, premiered in 2022 at the prestigious San Francisco Jewish Film Festival and on March 13, 2023, on PBS’s Great Performances as a part of its 50th Anniversary Season. The Jan Karski Educational Foundation serves as the film’s fiscal sponsor.

More information about the play and the movie, including full credits, movie trailer, and stories, can be found on the Foundation’s website under REMEMBER THIS

Derek Goldman's Acceptance Speech: derek-goldmans-acceptance-speech-june-17-2024.pdf 

Clark Young’s Acceptance Speech: clark-youngs-acceptance-speech-june-17-2024.pdf