Why a Polish Resistance Fighter’s ‘Failure’ to Stop the Holocaust Resonates Today

Jan Karski, and a New Play About His Life, Remind Us of the Importance of Truth, Valor, and Memory

A man leaps into the air. The theater audience gasps, then relaxes as he safely lands. Jan Karski—scholar, diplomat, World War II Polish Resistance fighter, and the messenger who brought news of the then-secret Holocaust to the world when there was still time to stop it—has just escaped from Gestapo custody into the literal arms of Polish Resistance fighters, who will nurse him back to health.

The actor playing Karski, David Strathairn, tells the audience in Karski’s melodious Eastern European accent that after the escape, the Gestapo rounded up 100 Poles …