On November 3rd at the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre in Toronto, CIJA along with its co-sponsors the Polish Consulate, the Canadian Polish Congress and the Sarah and Chaim Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre, UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, launched the week-long French-English exhibition “The world knew – Jan Karski mission for humanity”.
Jan Karski (1914-2000) was a courier for the Polish resistance movement and later a professor at Georgetown University. He carried out one of the most daring missions attempted in the Second World War ― a 1942 trek across Nazi-occupied Europe to inform western leaders that the Holocaust was underway. Karski’s trip was planned and prepared by the Polish Underground State.
“It is our hope that in sponsoring projects like this, together with the Polish community, Jan Karski’s legacy will become better known to Canadians of all ethnic, racial and religious backgrounds and will serve as an inspiration for all of us” said Berl Nadler Co-chair, The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) in Toronto.
The keynote speaker during the opening reception was Irene Tomaszewski, a Polish-Canadian writer, co-author of a book about the effort to aid Jews in occupied Poland, Codename Zegota: Rescuing Jews in Occupied Poland, 1942-45 – the Most Dangerous Conspiracy in Wartime Europe. She was the founding president of the Montreal-based Canadian Foundation for Polish Studies.
To carry out his mission, Jan Karski entered the Warsaw Ghetto, met with Jewish leaders there, and accepted an assignment to go in secrecy to a transit camp where he would witness the deportation of Jews to death camps in Nazi-occupied Poland. He then brought his account to London, where he met with the British Foreign Minister and other officials and continued on to the United States where he met with President Roosevelt and Chief Justice Felix Frankfurter. No action was taken by the Western Allies to come to the aid of the Jews. In summary, Tomaszewski said that Karski’s “wartime testimony was proven right, and the failure to act has been shown to be a great moral failure”.