Video: Poland’s Wartime Hero Jan Karski Recalls Meeting with Roosevelt

“All hope, Mr President, has been placed by the Polish nation in the hands of Franklin Delano Roosevelt…”


Those were the words of Jan Karski, the Polish underground army soldier who brought first-hand reports to Poland’s London-based government in exile, and to other Western allies, during the Second World War.

One of Mr Karski’s key roles was to show the world what Nazi Germany was really doing in Poland, and to the Jews there. Along with Witold Pilecki – ‘The Man who Broke into Auschwitz’ – Mr Karski was one of the key players who brought the activities of Hitler’s army in Poland home to the world.

Born Jan Kozielewski, in Łódź, in 1914,Mr Karski took the name by which the world now knows him as a pseudonym during the war. He was the first eye witness to tell American president Franklin D Roosevelt what was happening in Poland

But, recalling his interview in the Oval Office, Mr Karski was unimpressed with the US reaction.

Jan Karski recalls his meeting with Roosevelt:

He told Mr Roosevelt: “Before having left Poland, I was charged with this mission by the most important Jewish leaders. They organised for me two visits to the ghetto. I saw an extermination camp, the name is Bełżec…

“Mr President, the situation is horrible. The point is, without outside help, the Jews will perish in Poland.”

This, Mr Kulski, said, was the end of his report, before Mr Roosevelt spoke.

He then cited Mr Roosevelt’s response, which he said was: “The Allied nations are going to win this war. No more war, justice will be done. Your country will be alive again, more prosperous than before. Criminals will be punished. The United States will not abandon your country.”

“Poland, as recompensation, will receive East Prussia, or a part of East Prussia… When you return to Poland, you will tell your Polish leaders, this country will never fail them. They have a friend in the president of the United States.”

Yet after the war it was America, along with the United Kingdom, that sold Poland out to Stalin and sentenced the nation to almost half a century behind the Iron Curtain.

Karski himself emigrated to the US after the war, where he became an academic. He was honoured by many institutions, including being named one of the Righteous Among Nations for his actions in helping Jews in Nazi occupied Poland.

He died in Washington DC, in July 2000, aged 86.

Video: YouTube/Jan Karski Programme