Poles finally learn about their Holocaust whistleblower

By Nissan Tzur, May 12, 2011
Hero: Karski

Hero: Karski

The late Jan Karski is a national hero in Poland for his role as a resistance fighter during the Second World War. Few, however, knew that he was also one of the first eyewitnesses of the Holocaust and documented the horrors of the Warsaw Ghetto - despite having been recognised as "Righteous Among the Nations" by Yad Vashem in 1982.

Since news emerged that Karski's memoir, The Story of a Secret State, is to be published in the UK - and could be made into a film by the producer of The King's Speech - a fuller picture of the man has emerged in the Polish press .

Karski joined the Polish army shortly after the outbreak of the Second World War but was imprisoned by the Red Army. He escaped and joined the Polish resistance, for which he risked his life many times in secret missions.

What is less known in Poland is that from 1942, Karski repeatedly broke into the Warsaw Ghetto and collected evidence about what was happening. He later escaped Poland and set about convincing Western leaders - including Winston Churchill and US president Roosevelt - to take action. Sadly, many thought he was exaggerating.

Last updated: 3:39pm, May 12 2011