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Karski's reports

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Karski's reports were a series of reports attributed to Jan Karski, an investigator working for the Polish government-in-exile during World War II, describing the situation in occupied Poland. They were some of the first documents on the Holocaust in Poland received by the Polish government in exile, and, through it, by the Western Allies.

For the 1942 report attributed to him, considered a cornerstone of his legacy, the attribution to Karski is unconfirmed. No reliable sources exist for the actual content of the information Karski carried with him to the West, and the information contained in the official reports may actually have come from other couriers.[1]


"The Mass Extermination of Jews in German Occupied Poland". Document by the Polish government-in-exile based on Karski's reports, addressed to the wartime allies of the then-United Nations, 10 December 1942.

Karski, who fought as a non-commissioned officer during the German invasion of Poland in 1939 and subsequently escaped from a prisoner-of-war transport, wrote his first report on the situation in Poland in late 1939. Subsequently, he escaped from Poland to France, where he joined the recreated Polish Army, and after coming to the attention of the Polish government-in-exile due to qualities like his photographic memory, he became a courier and an investigator, travelling several times between occupied Poland and France (later, the United Kingdom).[2][3]

His reports contained information about various aspects of the situation in occupied Poland, including topics such as the extent of Polish resistance, and on numerous German war crimes and atrocities, including the ongoing Holocaust, at that point mostly unknown in the West.[3] His first two reports delivered to the government in exile in 1940 were entitled "Selected political and ideological issues in Poland" and "The Jewish situation".[4][5] Joshua D. Zimmerman called his work the "Home Army's first comprehensive report on the situation of Polish Jews".[6] and David Engel referred to it as "the first comprehensive discussion of Jewish matters in occupied Poland to have reached the [Polish] government [in exile].[5] His first report, compiled in France in 1940, was commissioned by a Polish leader Stanisław Kot, who asked Karski to write up his observations on several issues, among them, implicitly, the situation of the Polish Jews.[5]

Karski wrote several more reports in the following years.[3] His fourth report was also focused on the plight of the Jews.[7]

For the 1942 report attributed to him, considered a cornerstone of his legacy, the attribution to Karski is unconfirmed. No reliable sources exist for the actual content of the information Karski carried with him to the West, and the information contained in the official reports may actually have come from other couriers.[1]

Reception and significance

In 1942 Karski visited London, where he met with Polish and British officials, and other prominent people.[3] A year later he visited the United States.[3] Although information regarding the Holocaust constituted only a small part of the information he collected and delivered, it became one of the most influential parts of his reports.[3] The Polish government used Karski's reports to appeal to the Western Allies to interfere with the German atrocities against the Polish Jews, though by 1943 the appeals had not produced any results, as most Western leaders were not interested in or did not believe such revelations, and the Polish government officials themselves saw Jewish public opinion as unfavorable towards the Polish state.[3][8] The Western Allies' response was indeed lackluster.[9] Nechma Tec wrote that "Karski's reports about the Jewish plight and the messages from the Jewish leaders that inevitably pleaded for help fell on deaf ears".[10] Until the revelations late in the war, many Western politicians, and even some Jewish leaders, remained skeptical of Karski's reports, which were called "atrocity propaganda". Similarly, most newspapers treated Karski's revelations as "a minor story".[11]

In 2010 Claude Lanzmann, who interviewed Karski in 1978 and in 1985 used part of that interview in his film Shoah, released a documentary focused on Karski, titled The Karski Report .[12]

See also

Further reading

  • Stanisław Jankowski (2009). Karski: raporty tajnego emisariusza. Rebis. ISBN 978-83-7510-395-3.


  1. ^ a b Rappak, Wojtek (2014). ""Raport Karskiego" – kontrowersje i interpretacje". Zagłada Żydów. Studia i Materiały (in Polish) (10): 96–130. doi:10.32927/ZZSiM.518. ISSN 1895-247X. An essential part of the Karski story is an account of the 'report' which he brought to the West, the 'Karski report'. However, when we examine archival evidence and follow a chain of events in November 1942, we see that the report is a two-page summary in English which the Polish Government issued on November 24 when it made an official announcement about the Warsaw ghetto deportations. Over the years, historians began to refer to this as the 'Karski report', but on the day it was issued, Karski had not yet arrived in London. The materials which Karski took with him from Warsaw were passed to a Polish agent in Paris on October 4th who then placed them on a separate route to London where we think they arrived just before November 14th. We know which documents the 'Karski report' was based on so if these were among the materials which arrived by November 14th and if that was the 'post' which Karski delivered to Paris, then it would be correct to say that these documents were carried through occupied Europe by Karski. But there is no reliable list of the contents of this 'post' and since there were a number of couriers carrying materials which were duplicated in order to increase their chances of reaching London, it is possible that the documents on which the 'Karski report' was based were brought to London by a courier other than Karski.
  2. ^ "Jan Karski. Humanity's hero | The story of Poland war-time emissary". www.karski.muzhp.pl. Retrieved 17 June 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Engel, David (1 January 1990). "'The Western Allies and the Holocaust': JAN KARSKI'S MISSION TO THE WEST, 1942–1944". Holocaust and Genocide Studies. 5 (4): 363–380. doi:10.1093/hgs/5.4.363. ISSN 8756-6583.
  4. ^ (in Polish) Andrzej Żbikowski, Jan Karski – bohater polskiego podziemia, Żydowski Instytut Historyczny im. Emanuela Ringebluma w WarszawieStudium Europy Wschodniej, Uniwersytet Warszawski
  5. ^ a b c Engel, David (1983). "An Early Account of Polish Jewry under Nazi and Soviet Occupation Presented to the Polish Government-In-Exile, February 1940". Jewish Social Studies. 45 (1): 1–16. ISSN 0021-6704. JSTOR 4467201.
  6. ^ Joshua D. Zimmerman (5 June 2015). The Polish Underground and the Jews, 1939–1945. Cambridge University Press. p. 73. ISBN 978-1-107-01426-8.
  7. ^ Norman Davies; Antony Polonsky (2 December 1991). Jews in Eastern Poland and the USSR, 1939–46. Palgrave Macmillan UK. pp. 273–. ISBN 978-1-349-21789-2.
  8. ^ Jack R. Fischel (17 July 2010). Historical Dictionary of the Holocaust. Scarecrow Press. pp. 48–. ISBN 978-0-8108-7485-5.
  9. ^ Nechama Tec (2 May 2013). Resistance: Jews and Christians Who Defied the Nazi Terror. Oxford University Press. p. 186. ISBN 978-0-19-933945-7.
  10. ^ Tec, Nechma. "A Glimmer of Light" (PDF). Yad Vashem: Shoah Resource Center.
  11. ^ The Journal of Intergroup Relations. National Association of Human Rights Workers. 1995. p. 56.
  12. ^ Besson, Rémy (15 May 2011). "The Karski Report. A Voice with the Ring of Truth". Études photographiques (27). ISSN 1270-9050.

External links