Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Polish Ambassador to the U.S. Ryszard Schnepfhonored late Georgetown professor and World War II resistance fighter Jan Karski Monday night.
“A Tribute to Jan Karski” highlighted the Karski’s life and legacy. Before his 30-year tenure as a Georgetown professor, Karski was an agent of the resistance in Poland and delivered key intelligence to Allied leaders during WWII.
Dean of the School of Foreign Service Carol Lancaster, distinguished professor of diplomacy ZbigniewBrzezinski and Campus Ministry Senior Jewish Chaplain Harold White joined Albright and Schnepf to discuss Karski’s impact on both WWII and the world today.
The speakers all knew Karski and remembered him well.
“I think that Jan Karski also really exhibited that resilience in human spirit,” Albright said.
White focused on Karksi’s involvement from a view of faith.
“Faith, for him, was the ability to take a belief and concretize it into an action of love,” White said.
White said Karski urged people to tell the story of the Holocaust often and repeatedly to bring awareness to holocausts happening in our society today.
“Jan Karski is not a hero only in Poland — he is a hero of humanity,” Schnepf said. “[Tolerance] is something he taught here at this university, not only international politics but also respect for other cultures, other religions, other traditions.”
The panel also spoke about Karski’s legacy and his impact on society today.
Albright noted that Karski was vocal supporter of intervention on behalf of oppressed peoples around the world.
“We have the possibility of helping people in faraway places with unpronounceable names,” Albright said.
Brzezinski commented on how Karski actively informed Western leaders about the Holocaust as it was ongoing, while most people were ignorant of or ignored the tragedy.
“I think we, as human beings, have this instinctive sheltering effect in which we take shelter behind indifference because otherwise, the sacrifice we would have to make and the responsibility we would have to assume will probably be beyond most of us. This is what makes Karski so unique,” Brzezinskisaid.
To Brzezinski, Karski’s actions transcend the specific situation of World War II.
“It is a moral obligation for us to be engaged,” he said.
The event was attended by some of Karski’s former students, including Michael Mosettig (GRD ’68).
“The more we are reminded of this, the better” Mosettig said. “You could hear it again and again and again and grasp the heroic implications of what he did.”