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  • 9 April 2013

    For the first time outside Washington D.C. Americans can see the Medal of Freedom – the highest US civilian distinction - awarded to Jan Karski. The display is accompanied by an exhibition organised by Polish diplomats showcasing the life and work of Jan Karski.

    Exhibition on Jan Karski and his Medal of Freedom in Chicago“As a young officer and courier for the Polish Underground State and an eyewitness, Jan Karski provided an account of the Holocaust perpetrated by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland,” said Polish Consul General in Chicago Paulina Kapuścińska at the opening of the Jan Karski exhibition. “Jan Karski drew up detailed reports for the Polish government-in-exile and provided an eyewitness account to the British foreign minister, later going to Washington D.C. to meet with President Franklin D. Roosevelt, at a time when it was still possible to save the inmates of Nazi German concentration camps in occupied Poland,” she added.


    In May 2012, US President Barack Obama posthumously bestowed on the Polish hero the Medal of Freedom in recognition of his merits.


    Dan Rutherford, the Treasurer of the State of Illinois, who attended the opening of the exhibition devoted to Jan Karski in the Richard J. Daley Center in Chicago, noted that Jan Karski, as well as thousands of Poles, were recognized as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem in 1982.


    The official opening of the exhibition in Chicago was also attended by Aaron Elster, a Holocaust survivor who was hidden by a Polish family during World War II. Members of the US-Polish and Jewish communities, as well as journalists were also present at the ceremony.


    Jan Karski, lawyer, diplomat and member of the Polish underground resistance movement, remained in exile after the end of World War II, and for four decades – until his death in 2000 - lectured at the prestigious Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, at the Jesuit-run Georgetown University in Washington D.C.


    During WW II, Jan Karski was a courier and political emissary transmitting information between the Polish resistance movement and the Polish Government based in London. In 1942, he performed his most important mission, smuggling materials about the planned extermination of Jews by the Nazis from German-occupied Poland. When compiling his dossier, Karski went to the Warsaw Ghetto and the Izbica transit camp for Jews at the risk of his life. Delivered to top UK and US officials, Karski’s report on the Holocaust was one of the first eyewitness accounts of the Nazis’ crimes perpetrated on Jews.


    The exhibition showcasing the life and work of the outstanding Pole has already been presented at the UN headquarters in New York. It will run in Chicago through 23 April, 2013.


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