Jan Karski's Story of a Secret State stands as one of the most poignant and inspiring memoirs of World War II and the Holocaust. With elements of a spy thriller, documenting his experiences in the Polish Underground, and as one of the first accounts of the systematic slaughter of the Jews by the German Nazis, this volume is a remarkable testimony of one man's courage and a nation's struggle for resistance against overwhelming oppression.
Karski was 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. He became 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. He was twice smuggled into the Warsaw Ghetto, and entered the Nazi's Izbica transit camp disguised as a guard, witnessing first-hand the horrors of the Holocaust.
Jan Karski was born in Łódź, Poland, in 1914. He received a degree in Law and Diplomatic Science in 1935 and served as a liaison officer of the Polish Underground during World War II. He carried the first eyewitness report of the Holocaust to a mostly unbelieving West, meeting with President Roosevelt in 1943 to plead for Allied intervention. Story of a Secret State was originally published in 1944, becoming a bestseller and Book of the Month Club selection. After the war, Karski earned his PhD at Georgetown University, where he served as a distinguished professor in the School of Foreign Service for forty years. He died in Washington, DC, in 2000. Karski has been recognized as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem. In 2012, he was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.