Summary

Karski's Story of a Secret State stands as inspiring memoir of World War II and the Holocaust. With elements of a spy thriller, documenting his experiences in the Polish Underground, and as eyewitness accounts of the Holocaust, this volume is a testimony of one man's courage, and a nation's struggle for resistance against oppression.



In 1939, Jan Karski, a brilliant young Polish student, enjoyed a life of parties and pleasure. But when war broke out his familiar world was destroyed. Karski became a liaison officer of the Polish underground and POW of the Red Army who eventually infiltrated both the Warsaw Ghetto and a German resettlement camp, carrying the first eyewitness accounts of the Holocaust to a mostly disbelieving West. He met with President Roosevelt in 1943 and pleaded for Allied intervention; Roosevelt then established the War Refugee Board, a federal agency that helped settle surviving Jews. Soon after this Karski wrote of his experiences in Story of a Secret State, which was published by Houghton Mifflin in 1944 and became a Book on the Month Club selection. Near the end of the war Karski, a devout Catholic, remained Washington and earned a PhD at Georgetown in the School of Foreign Service and later taught at Georgetown for forty years; he died in 2000. In 2012 Karski received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. According to Alan Furst, Story of a Secret State "stands in the absolute first rank of books about the resistance in World War II."