New York, NY, October 24, 2011 … The Anti-Defamation League's Courage to Care Award, which was established in 1987 to honor rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust, is being renamed in honor of Jan Karski, the Polish diplomat and righteous gentile who provided one of the first eyewitness accounts of Hitler's Final Solution to the West.
A longtime professor at Georgetown University, who died in 2000 at the age of 86, Jan Karski was among the first recipients of the ADL Courage to Care Award, and the memory of his deeds is often invoked when the award is presented. In the years since it was established, the award has been given to many Polish rescuers.
"Such is the esteem we feel for Jan Karski, whom I had the privilege of knowing during his years teaching in the United States, that we decided to rename the award in his memory," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director and a Holocaust survivor from Poland.
"Each time we present the Courage to Care Award to the family of someone who risked his or her life to save Jews, we will also remember Jan Karski's urgent message to the Western nations that governments and people have the power and the obligation to step forward and stop the murder of innocent men, women and children," Mr. Foxman added. "It is not just a history lesson, but a message for today and for all the ages."
(The first presentation of the ADL Jan Karski Courage to Care Award took place on Thursday, November 3 during the League's 2011 Annual Meeting in New York City, where the award was presented posthumously to Count János Esterházy, a Hungarian aristocrat and member of the Slovakian Parliament who in 1939 actively participated in assisting the settlement of Polish refugees in Hungary, many of whom were Jews, and who later helped Slovakian Jews flee to Hungary.)
Born to a Roman Catholic family in Lotz, Dr. Karski served as a clandestine diplomat for the Polish government-in-exile in London and as a liaison officer of the Polish underground during the early days of World War II. He witnessed firsthand the Nazis' treatment of the Jews in its ghettos and concentration camps. After covertly entering the Warsaw ghetto and the Izbica transit camp, the last stop before the Belzac death camp, he traveled to London and Washington, D.C. to alert Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt to the Holocaust by reporting his eyewitness accounts and made urgent pleas to save European Jewry, to no avail.
Dr. Karski remained in Washington, D.C., became an American citizen and taught at Georgetown University for nearly 40 years. He was presented with the ADL Courage to Care Award in 1988 in recognition of his extraordinary efforts to save Polish Jewry, and was later nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.