English Section

US show about Polish WWII hero comes to Poland

25.01.2023 14:30
An acclaimed play about a Polish World War II hero that has toured the United States in recent years is set to be shown in Poland.
Jan Karski
Jan Karski Photo: Muzeum Historii Polski

Entitled Remember This: The Lesson of Jan Karski, the play is a one-man show about Jan Karski, who carried the first eyewitness accounts of the Holocaust to the world in the 1940s.

Written by Clark Young and Derek Goldman, the show stars Oscar-nominated actor David Strathairn, whose credits include the films Nightmare Alley, Nomadland, Lincoln and Good Night and Good Luck.

Strathairn has portrayed Karski in the play’s successive iterations since its 2014 opening at Georgetown University in Washington, where Karski lectured for over four decades.

In its review of the production, which was shown last autumn at the Theatre for a New Audience in New York, The Washington Post wrote: “David Strathairn portrays Jan Karski’s struggle to convince the Allies of the Holocaust’s enormity … Truth is the crux of Remember This. Strathairn and his moving narration tell the harrowing story.”

Remember This: The Lesson of Jan Karski is scheduled to be performed in Warsaw (January 25 and 26), Łódź (January 29), Kraków (February 1) and Poznań (February 4).

During World War II, as a member of the anti-Nazi resistance, Karski took part in courier missions with dispatches from the Polish underground to the Polish government-in-exile, then based in France. 

During one such mission, in July 1940, he was arrested by the Gestapo, the Nazi German secret police. Rescued by the Polish resistance, he soon resumed active service in the Information and Propaganda Bureau of the Polish Home Army’s High Command, and in the summer of 1942 he was assigned to perform a secret mission to London on behalf of the Polish Government’s Delegate in Poland and several political parties.

In order to gather evidence on the plight of Polish Jews, he was twice smuggled by Jewish underground leaders into the Warsaw Ghetto. He later met several Allied leaders, including Anthony Eden, Britain’s foreign secretary, and US President Franklin Roosevelt, but failed to secure support for European Jews.

After the war, Karski settled in the United States. In 1954, he became a US citizen. He remained an advocate of Holocaust memory until his death in 2000.

Karski’s honours included the Order of the White Eagle, the highest Polish state distinction, the US Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Righteous Among the Nations Medal from the Yad Vashem Institute in Jerusalem, and the honorary citizenship of Israel.

He is the author of Story of a Secret State and The Great Powers and Poland: 1919-1945, from Versailles to Yalta.