Polish resistance hero honoured in special exhibition at the Canadian War Museum

November 14, 2013

Ottawa, November 14, 2013 — In honour of Holocaust Education Month, the Canadian War Museum and the Embassy of the Republic of Poland present a special exhibition on the life of Jan Karski, a courier in the Polish Underground who risked his life to bring news of Nazi atrocities directly to the Polish government in exile and to Allied commanders.

THE WORLD KNEW – Jan Karski’s Mission for Humanity describes the four perilous missions that Karski, a young Polish Catholic diplomat, undertook to smuggle information out of occupied Europe and into the hands of the Allies. To bear witness to Nazi German war crimes, Karski was twice smuggled into the Warsaw Ghetto and to Izbica Lubelska, a transit-point to the Nazi German death camps. The horrors he saw marked his life forever.

“Jan Karski’s story is one of courage and compassion,” said Canadian War Museum Director General James Whitham. “We are very pleased to share his remarkable life and actions of generosity with our visitors.”

Through historic photos and interpretive text, this exhibition tells the story of Karski’s remarkable life. It describes how as a soldier in the Polish Army, and later as a member of the resistance movement, Karski was twice captured and twice escaped by using his wits, courage and the help of other underground fighters.

Drawing heavily on Karski’s war memoir Story of a Secret State, the exhibition details his final mission, when he was charged with bringing an eyewitness account of the Holocaust to skeptical Allied leaders, including British foreign secretary Anthony Eden and U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It recounts his secret visits to the Warsaw Ghetto and to a Durchgangslager (a sorting and transit-point before the death camps), where, in his own words, “the chaos, the squalor, the hideousness of it all was indescribable.”

Jan Karski said of himself, “I was an insignificant little man. My mission was important.” “Like many generations of Poles, he fought bravely for his country and people during the Second World War,” said Polish Ambassador to Canada Marcin Bosacki. “As the representative of the Polish underground state, he tried to alert the Western Allies to the Holocaust. We are honoured to present Jan Karski to the Canadian public and hope that his mission for humanity will never be forgotten.”

“During the Holocaust, at humanity’s darkest hour, there were exceptional individuals who stood up to hatred and oppression,” said Dr. Mario Silva, Canadian Chair of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. “Jan Karski took enormous risks to penetrate the Warsaw Ghetto and a transit-point, so that he could bring his personal account of the Jewish plight to the doorsteps of the leaders of the free world, in an effort to help secure their rescue. His heroic story should be widely known and celebrated in Canada. I encourage everyone to come and see this important exhibition.”

THE WORLD KNEW – Jan Karski’s Mission for Humanity was created by the Polish History Museum in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland and the Jan Karski Educational Foundation. Support was provided by the Canadian Chairmanship of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, the Shoah Committee of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa, the Embassy of Israel, the Embassy of the United States of America, the Canadian Polish Congress and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs.

The exhibition will be presented in the Lobby of the Canadian War Museum from November 14 to 29, 2013.

The Canadian War Museum is Canada’s national museum of military history. Its mission is to promote public understanding of Canada’s military history in its personal, national, and international dimensions.


 Media contacts:

Avra Gibbs Lamey
Communications and Media Relations Officer
Canadian War Museum
Telephone: 819-776-8607

Andrzej Fafara
First Secretary
Embassy of the Republic of   Poland
Telephone: 613-789-0468 ext. 34
or 613-762-6643

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