Jan Karski’s Story of a Secret State stands as one of the most poignant and inspiring memoirs of World War II and the Holocaust. With elements of a spy thriller, documenting his experiences in the Polish Underground, and as one of the first accounts of the systematic slaughter of the Jews by the German Nazis, this volume is a remarkable testimony of one man’s courage and a nation’s struggle for resistance against overwhelming oppression.
Karski was a brilliant young diplomat when war broke out in 1939 with Hitler’s invasion of Poland. Taken prisoner by the Soviet Red Army, which had simultaneously invaded from the East, Karski narrowly escaped the subsequent Katyn Forest Massacre. He became a member of the Polish Underground, the most significant resistance movement in occupied Europe, acting as a liaison and courier between the Underground and the Polish government-in-exile. He was twice smuggled into the Warsaw Ghetto, and entered the Nazi’s Izbica transit camp disguised as a guard, witnessing first-hand the horrors of the Holocaust.
Karski’s courage and testimony, conveyed in a breathtaking manner in Story of a Secret State, offer the narrative of one of the world’s greatest eyewitnesses and an inspiration for all of humanity, emboldening each of us to rise to the challenge of standing up against evil and for human rights. This definitive edition—which includes a foreword by Madeleine Albright, a biographical essay by Yale historian Timothy Snyder, an afterword by Zbigniew Brzezinski, previously unpublished photos, notes, further reading, and a glossary—is an apt legacy for this hero of conscience during the most fraught and fragile moment in modern history.
First published to instant acclaim in 1944, Karski's memoir supplemented here with photos, facsimiles, and a foreword by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright tells of the four years (1939 1943) he served as the leading liaison officer in the Polish Underground during Nazi occupation. Only 25 in 1939, Karski recounts his work linking various aspects of the underground's extensive administrative, political, and economic apparatuses, as well his capture and subsequent torture at the hands of the Gestapo (he likens being beaten by a rubber stick to "the sensation produced when a dentist's drill strikes a nerve, but infinitely multiplied and spread over the entire nervous system"). After his capture, Karski was twice smuggled into the Warsaw Ghetto, where he was horrified to discover "hunger, misery, the atrocious stench of decomposing bodies, the pitiful moans of dying children." At a death camp, he witnessed Jews being murdered in cattle cars through asphyxiation and burning by quicklime. Sent in 1942 1943 to London and Washington, D.C., where he met with British Foreign Minister Anthony Eden and FDR, respectively, Karski delivered the first shocking eyewitness reports of the Holocaust to the Western world. Briskly paced, this is a gripping and immediate account of Nazi brutality from a brave leader of the resistance. Karski, who died in 2000, was awarded a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012. B&w photos & illus.