• Faithful to my Homeland, the Republic of Poland
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  • 28 July 2018

    A conversation that took place between President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Jan Karski was one of the many initiatives taken by Poland to tell the international community about the tragedy of the Holocaust. On the 75th anniversary of this conversation, the MFA Archives evokes a memorandum from their meeting.

    Before World War Two, Jan Karski (his real name was Jan Kozielewski) worked at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in different posts, among them, the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in London and the Emigration Policy Section of the MFA Consular Department. After the outbreak of the war, he joined the underground resistance movement and was often sent as a courier from occupied Poland to France and Great Britain carrying reports for the Polish Government-in-Exile. In 1942–1943, he informed members of the British and US authorities and Jewish organisations about the Holocaust of Jews living in the territory of then occupied Poland.


    The conversation between Jan Karski and President Franklin D. Roosevelt held on 28 July 1943 was one of his best known efforts in this regard. The meeting took place at the White House in the presence of the Polish Ambassador to the US Jan Ciechanowski. The range of issues raised was broad and included the situation in occupied Poland, German policy, the Home Army and its operations, and the matter of Polish State borders after the war. But one of the most important points discussed during this meeting were the crimes committed in the occupied territory of the Republic of Poland against the Jewish population. “I am sure that many people have no idea about the terrible fate suffered by the Jewish population,” said Karski. The Polish envoy also informed the US President that the number of Jews who had been murdered in Poland had exceeded 1.8 million, stressing that the Germans “want to subject the Jewish population to biological annihilation.” Karski also warned that if the Allied Powers fail to act with determination, the Jewish population in Poland “will cease to exist.”


    Karski’s visit to the US and his meeting with the President were very significant. The US President had naturally been informed about the situation of the Jewish population in the occupied territories, but his knowledge usually came from diplomatic or intelligence sources. This time he had an opportunity to hear a first-hand account told by an eyewitness of the Shoah.


    For his services, Jan Karski was awarded the Silver Virtuti Militari cross (1943), the title of the Righteous Among the Nations (1982) and the Order of the White Eagle (1995).


    Presented documents:


    A memo drafted by Jan Karski from his conversation with the US President, additionally countersigned by Ambassador Ciechanowski (PDF file). The original memo is in the collection of the Hoover Institution in the US, and is also available on microfilm in the Central Archives of Modern Records in Warsaw and on the website of the National Digital Archives (Archives of Modern Records, the Hoover Institution, MFA group, catalogue no. 54, folder 8, frames 667-696).


    A memo drafted by Ambassador Ciechanowski which illustrates Jan Karski’s  visit to the US and his talks with US politicians, government officials and journalists, as well as with members of Jewish organisations (PDF file) (Archives of Modern Records, the Hoover Institution, MFA group, catalogue no. 54, folder 8, frames 659-666).


    See also archival documents and photographs concerning Jan Karski:


    75th anniversary of the Raczyński Note

    On the extermination of Jews in occupied Poland


    Drafted by MFA Bureau of Archives and Information Management, Historical Knowledge Section


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