“Within Jan Karski’s stirring account of selfless heroism to expose the Holocaust, lie two compelling messages: It is possible for one man to bring to the word’s attention unimaginable political evil. The harder and still relevant question raised by Karski’s story is: How does one get the civilized world to respond?”—Daniel Henninger, Wall Street Journal
Jan Karski’s Story of a Secret State stands as one of the most poignant and inspiring memoirs of World War II, the Holocaust, and the Polish Underground. With elements of a spy thriller, documenting his experiences in anti-Nazi espionage, and as one of the first accounts of the systematic slaughter of the Jews, this volume is a remarkable testimony of one man’s courage and a nation’s struggle for resistance against overwhelming oppression. President Bill Clinton praises Karski’s “lessons of heroism, resilience, and uncompromising leadership,” adding that “all freedom-seeking people around the world should know Karski’s story.”
Karski’s memoir begins with his life as 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. The story advances with Karski becoming 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. In his work, he was twice smuggled into the Warsaw Ghetto, at one point tortured by the SS, and eventually entered the Nazi’s Izbica transit camp disguised as a guard, witnessing first-hand the horrors of the Holocaust.
Rahm Emanuel, Mayor of the city of Chicago, praises Story of a Secret State, saying, “Jan Karski’s brave account of the Nazi’s horrific crimes and one man’s heroic resistance strikes our collective conscience as strongly today as when he first published it over six decades ago. Today, millions around the world continue to thank and honor him for exposing the evil that was perpetuated throughout concentration camps. When President Barack Obama posthumously awarded Jan Karski the Medal of Freedom he recognized that Karski’s story is one of courage as much as compassion. This book is a stirring reminder that our world depends on both.”
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.