"Jan Karski was a great soldier", said Polish President Andrzej Duda on Wednesday when he posthumously promoted Karski, an envoy of the Polish Underground State during World War II, to the rank of general.
The Polish president presented the promotion document to Karski's family and gave a copy of it to the Polish History Museum.
Born in Poland in 1914, Karski joined the Polish resistance movement in 1939. He witnessed firsthand the German Nazis' treatment of Jews in ghettos and concentration camps. As an envoy of the London-based Polish government-in-exile, Karski was the first to inform the western Allies about the German Nazis' mass extermination of Jews.
To learn the fate of Polish Jews, Karski was smuggled into the Warsaw ghetto by the Jewish underground and to the Belzec death camp in the disguise of a Ukrainian guard. He travelled across occupied Europe to England, and eventually to America. Karski personally reported to the Polish Prime Minister in London, General Wladyslaw Sikorski, Britain's Foreign Secretary, Anthony Eden, US President Franklin Roosevelt and many other prominent figures. His description of the systematic annihilation of Jews was met with incredulity.
Karski remained in Washington, D.C., after the war, became an American citizen and taught at Georgetown University for nearly 40 years. He died in 2000.
He was decorated with the Righteous Among the Nations Yad Vashem medal and the Order of the White Eagle, the highest Polish distinction. Karski, widely regarded as the "man who tried to stop the Holocaust," was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian state distinction in the United States, by President Barack Obama. (PAP)