Monday, January 30, 2017

Honoring Jan Karski, the Messenger from Hell

Polish WWII Resistance Fighter Jan Karski on Democratic Societies

Today in a ceremony in Manhattan, academics posthumously honored longtime Georgetown University professor Jan Karski, a man who tried to prevent the Holocaust by sharing the truth. Alas, politicians among the Allies were tardy to act of the news from Karski as the Messenger from Hell.

During the Second World War,I Karski was a Second Lieutenant in the Krakow Valvary Brigade who was captured after the battle of Tomaszow  (1939) by the Russians. But due to Karski's birthplace, the Russians handed him over to the Germans, thus he avoided being a victim of the Katyn massacre of 1940. 

Karski escaped his German POW train in 1939 and escaped to Warsaw where he joined the Polish Resistance movement. Larslo  organized courier missions to the Polish Government in exile headquartered in Paris andhe himself made several secret trips to France and Britain. Karski was eventually captured by the Gestapo and tortured in Slovakia but was later smuggled out and rejoined the Polish Resistance. 

In 1942, Karski was selected by Polish Prime Minister in exile  Władysław Sikorski to go on a secret mission to gather first hand information about the Nazi atrocities in occupied Poland.  Karski was smuggled into the Warsaw Ghetto. Karski also sought to infiltrate the Belzec death camp as an Estonian guard.  Although Karski only managed to see a transit station, the horror that he witnessed first hand was appalling.  

After briefing the Polish Government in exile upon his return to London in 1942, Karski met with other exiled Polish politicians and British Foreign Minister Anthony Eden about his first hand testimony about the Holocaust.  In June of 1943, Karski traveled to the United States to personally brief President Franklin Roosevelt, as well as other American civic and government leaders, including Secretary of State Cordell Hull and Associate Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter, without much effect. Karski published his recollections Courier from Poland: The Story of a Secret State (1944) which sold more than 400,000 copies. 

Eventually Jan Karski settled at Georgetown University, eventually earning a Ph.D in 1952 and taught there for over forty years. Georgetown remembers Jan Karski as many things — a beloved professor, writer, and colleague, to name a few — but to the world, he was known as one of the first to warn Western powers of the horrors of the Holocaust.

Jan Karski at Yad Vashem (circa 1982)
Although Karski was a Roman Catholic, he felt a profound connection with the people whose lives he attempted to save from the Holocaust.  In 1981, Karski said: “All murdered Jews became my family. I am a Christian Jew.” In 1982 Karski was recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations.  

In 1991, he received the Wallenberg Medal from the University of Michigan for his outstanding humanitarian efforts.  In 2012, President Barack Obama posthumously awarded Jan Karski the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his heroic witness to the ugly truth of the Holocaust.  Mr. Obama proclaimed: "Jan Karski -- a young Polish Catholic -- who witnessed Jews being put on cattle cars, who saw the killings, and who told the truth, all the way to President Roosevelt himself."   

"Whoever does not condemn, consents" mural in Warsaw

Karski's faithful witness has been remembered from murals in Warsaw to a series of five bronzes of Karski sitting on a bench playing chess created by Krakow sculptor Karol Badyna which are located in Georgetown, Manhattan, Lodz, Warsaw, Keilce and Tel Aviv University in Israel. 

Monday, January 9, 2017

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow on the Three Kings

Three Kings came riding from far away,
Melchior and Gaspar and Baltasar;
Three Wise Men out of the East were they,
And they travelled by night and they slept by day,
For their guide was a beautiful, wonderful star.

The star was so beautiful, large and clear,
That all the other stars of the sky
Became a white mist in the atmosphere,
And by this they knew that the coming was near
Of the Prince foretold in the prophecy.

Three caskets they bore on their saddle-bows,
Three caskets of gold with golden keys;
Their robes were of crimson silk with rows
Of bells and pomegranates and furbelows,
Their turbans like blossoming almond-trees.

And so the Three Kings rode into the West,
Through the dusk of the night, over hill and dell,
And sometimes they nodded with beard on breast,
And sometimes talked, as they paused to rest,
With the people they met at some wayside well.

"Of the child that is born," said Baltasar,
"Good people, I pray you, tell us the news;
For we in the East have seen his star,
And have ridden fast, and have ridden far,
To find and worship the King of the Jews."

And the people answered, "You ask in vain;
We know of no King but Herod the Great!"
They thought the Wise Men were men insane,
As they spurred their horses across the plain,
Like riders in haste, who cannot wait.

And when they came to Jerusalem,
Herod the Great, who had heard this thing,
Sent for the Wise Men and questioned them;
And said, "Go down unto Bethlehem,
And bring me tidings of this new king."

So they rode away; and the star stood still,
The only one in the grey of morn;
Yes, it stopped --it stood still of its own free will,
Right over Bethlehem on the hill,
The city of David, where Christ was born.

And the Three Kings rode through the gate and the guard,
Through the silent street, till their horses turned
And neighed as they entered the great inn-yard;
But the windows were closed, and the doors were barred,
And only a light in the stable burned.

And cradled there in the scented hay,
In the air made sweet by the breath of kine,
The little child in the manger lay,
The child, that would be king one day
Of a kingdom not human, but divine.

His mother Mary of Nazareth
Sat watching beside his place of rest,
Watching the even flow of his breath,
For the joy of life and the terror of death
Were mingled together in her breast.

They laid their offerings at his feet:
The gold was their tribute to a King,
The frankincense, with its odor sweet,
Was for the Priest, the Paraclete,
The myrrh for the body's burying.

And the mother wondered and bowed her head,
And sat as still as a statue of stone,
Her heart was troubled yet comforted,
Remembering what the Angel had said
Of an endless reign and of David's throne.

Then the Kings rode out of the city gate,
With a clatter of hoofs in proud array;
But they went not back to Herod the Great,
For they knew his malice and feared his hate,

And returned to their homes by another way.
                               ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 

Saturday, January 7, 2017

St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta on Christmas

Ir is so apropos to remember Mother Teresa's pearl of wisdom as the Eastern lung of Christendom celebrates the birth of our Savior in Orthodox Christmas.