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Comments

Karin Chenoweth

I was lucky enough to be able to interview Jan Karski once, years ago. And one of the many things that struck me was that he did think of helping the Jews of Poland as something he simply had to do, like breathing. And yet wht he did required a lot more thought, calculation, and bravery than breathing. He told me of slipping into and then out of concentration camps so that he could personally bear witness to American and European leaders about what was going on. And yet he met with stony resistance. One of his biggest disappointments he had was when he met with H.G. Wells, whose books he had read as a child. Wells's reaction was merely to ask why Karski thought Jews always engendered hostility, no matter where they went.

Jeff Weintraub

I, too, got to work with Karski for a few years before he died, and had the privilege of being in his presence many times. His other big disappointment was, of course, reluctance in the Britain and the U.S. to either believe him or to act on what he told them (though one could argue that FDR was influenced enough by what he heard from Karski to form the War Refugee Board near the end of the war). In particular, he briefed Felix Frankfurter, then a Supreme Court justice and one of the most prominent Jews in America. Following Karski's long and detailed description of what he saw, Frankfurter said, "Mr. Karski, a man like me talking to a man like you must be totally frank. So I must say: I am unable to believe you." And for the rest of his life Karski would say that he was haunted by his inability to stop the tragedy, even though he did everything he could have.

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