I say this as a President, and I say it as a father. We must tell our children about a crime unique in human history. The one and only Holocaust — six million innocent people — men, women, children, babies — sent to their deaths just for being different, just for being Jewish. We tell them, our children, about the millions of Poles and Catholics and Roma (Gypsies) and gay people and so many others who also must never be forgotten. Let us tell our children not only how they died, but also how they lived — as fathers and mothers, and sons and daughters, and brothers and sisters who loved and hoped and dreamed, just like us.
We must tell our children about how this evil was allowed to happen — because so many people succumbed to their darkest instincts, and because so many others stood silent. Let us also tell our children about the Righteous Among the Nations. Among them was 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.
Jan Karski passed away more than a decade ago. But today, I’m proud to announce that this spring I will honor him with America’s highest civilian honor — the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
A bit more about Jan Karski, who deserves to have his story told when for years it was not. Karski was a Polish Catholic who was sent early by anti-nazi underground forces to provide undercover information to the Polish government in exile (in Paris and London) and to other governments including the United States. He even provided early information to the allied forces early about the hidden extermination of the Jews in Poland and especially the dismantling of the Warsaw ghetto. Despite his reports which he filed at great person risk of his own life, people still did not believe that this could have been possible and delayed sending help to end the war. His story reveals that the world knew about the extermination of the Jews and either chose not to act or found it too overwhelming to believe that this could actually be happening.
From this interview:
When I brought my report to London, and I was twice in the Warsaw Ghetto and in a concentration camp and saw what happened to Jews in World War I, such a thing never happened in the entire history of the world. There were pogroms, the Inquisition, expulsions, mass murders (Genghis Khan, in Turkey against the Armenians), but never such a phenomenon in a civilized country like Germany where there was conceived a plan by the highest government authority to destroy an entire population. I had this feeling from Eden, and Lord Cranborne (Conservative Party) a dignified man, a very rich man and Lord Selbourne who was very anti-Nazi — what I was telling them I had the feeling that they were thinking that I had exaggerated, they thought that it was anti-Nazi propaganda, they couldn’t believe what was actually happening.
When I came to the United States in 1943, I had a meeting with a Justice of the Supreme Court, Frankfurter, who was a Jew, and he told me at a meeting at the Polish Embassy, “Do you know who I am? Yes. Do you know I am a Jew? Yes. Please tell me what is happening.” After 20 minutes I told him all I saw. He was interested only in what happened to Jews. After 20-25 minutes, a moment of silence, I remember every word — “Mr. Karski, a man like me talking to a man like you, I want to be totally frank — I am unable to believe you.” My ambassador said, “Felix, you don’t mean it. You cannot say such a thing. You cannot call him a liar.” “I did not say he is lying. I am just unable to believe what he told me.” Then he reached out to shake my hand, but I couldn’t.
So, it was difficult to believe for those who were far away. Why, when I now hear, today, when people use the term Holocaust, in many cases I feel offended — “abortion is a Holocaust” or the Armenians suffered a Holocaust — all this is blasphemy, there is no comparison.
Wiesel said it the best, “All nations had victims, but all Jews were victims. ” The word Holocaust cannot be used by any nation. It means the destruction of Jews.
Which is exactly why one should never make comparisons to the Holocaust on any situation that is actually not like the Holocaust and why so many Jews are angry with Bishop Jenky this week. Rightfully so.
Regardless, President Obama is honoring Karski with the highest award given to a civilian. It is only disappointing that Mr. Karski is no longer living to receive it. He went on to work as a Professor at Georgetown for more than 35 years.
I guess President Obama is really anti-life and really, really hates Catholics. He hates us so much that he’ll give a Catholic an award for standing up against the extermination of an entire race of people.
A race of people that he did not even belong to.