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Wednesday, 8 January 2014

"People such as Jan Karski have left us a clear and wise message"

President Bronisław Komorowski

History is among others a reflection of human cruelty and of human heroism. The 20th century was in that sense particularly affected: by two world wars, the Holocaust, revolutions, and totalitarian systems in operation.

It was actions taken up by people such as Jan Karski, the Man of Freedom, it was their courage, empathy, human solidarity, that came as a response to the spread of evil back then, and to enslavement.

History has not come to its end, also nowadays we encounter in the world injustice, totalitarian regimes, wrong inflicted on the most vulnerable ones, conflicts whose greatest victims are defenceless civilians.


Also today we need courage and, above all, empathy and human solidarity. We likewise need wisdom to be able to learn the lesson from history and to hear the voice of victims.

Jan Karski, or Jan Kozielewski, for this was his real name, was one of those who experienced cruelty first hand and who grasped the significance of heroism.

He was the one to enter the Warsaw Ghetto in disguise as a representative of the Polish Underground, and then the transition camp in Izbica from where the Jews were transported to their death.

In the fall of 1942 he set off to travel the world and, as an emissary of the Polish Underground State, to relate to others what he had seen. He wanted to put an end to Evil. He was not given credence.

Karski has not managed to stop the machinery of annihilation but he managed to give a powerful testimony, to impart the knowledge about the Holocaust and about the ones who wanted to stop the Holocaust: the Polish Underground State, left all alone in their efforts.

Jan Karski was a voice of victims, the ones who suffered from a tragedy of an unprecedented and unimaginable scale. The voice that went unheeded.

If history is life’s teacher we should be able to hear the voice of victims today and should not remain indifferent to it.

People such as Jan Karski have left us a clear and wise message: the code of conduct, the set of rules which is so crucial for a viability of a community, or - as one could insist - of mankind.

The conference today speaks volumes about the long way Europe has gone from the days of World War II, from the Annihilation to the present-day, the long way that the nations of Europe have gone.

This is also the great lengths that the Europeans have gone to be a community whose permanence is underpinned by such values as freedom or solidarity.

The structures of the uniting Europe come as a response to warfare and the Annihilation; they demonstrate the triumph of the integration idea over the effort to create divisions among people, prompted by a mad ideology.

This is also a triumph of Jan Karski, of his vision of the world, his understanding of humanity.


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