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Karski: How One Man Tried to Stop the Holocaust Hardcover – November 3, 1994

ISBN-13: 978-0471018568 ISBN-10: 0471018562 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 316 pages
  • Publisher: John Wiley & Sons; 1 edition (November 3, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471018562
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471018568
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #714,108 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Jan Karski's brother, a police official, recruited him into the Polish underground, where he became a courier. Captured by the Gestapo, Karski escaped to bear witness of Nazi atrocities in the Warsaw Ghetto and elsewhere. Because written reports of the Germans' systematic attempt to destroy Polish Jewry were ignored in London and Washington, D.C., Karski went to both capitals, where he met Allied leaders. But his testimony was not taken seriously. Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter, for example, said he simply didn't believe Karski. Karski became an American citizen after the war and pursued an academic career (he is now professor emeritus at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service). In 1982 he was made an honorary citizen of Israel and recognized as one of the Righteous Among Nations. His engrossing biography is valuable, for it tempers the widespread contention that Gentile Poland was indifferent to the plight of the Jews. Wood is a Tennessee journalist, Jankowski a Polish journalist.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

"A book that is more than just an agent-thriller: Karski's report raises anew the question of why the Allies didn't make ending the mass-murder of the Jews a war aim." -- Der Spiegel (Germany), 27 January 1997

"A gripping biography.... worthy of the life it depicts. The authors write without jargon and with a breeziness that permits quick reading, but they have done their homework. Historians cannot answer 'what if,' but the question burns through each page of this book." -- Michael Berenbaum, President and Chief Executive Officer, Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, in Polin, 1996

"A gripping documentary, which expresses the complexity of Polish politics under the Nazi regime and the dilemma of one of Poland's great heroes." -- Jewish Chronicle (London) 17 February 1995

"A record of extreme courage, desperate survival and moral heroism that is also a burning and all-too-relevant indictment of the world's ability to avert its eyes.... Read it." -- The Good Book Guide (England), March 1995

"An adventure... retold in a first-rate scholarly manner. It is a book all teachers of the period should read.... If a gentile hero is necessary, then the unqualified honor should go to Jan Karski and not to the one-dimensional, hollow persona that was Oskar Schindler.... Jan Karski ranks with the Wallenbergs and Bernadottes, those who actively intervened in the Holocaust and actually saved lives at enormous risk to their own." -- The Genocide Forum, November 1995

"Karski is the remarkable story of a modest man who has become a 'professional hero,' which the authors tell with sympathy and verve.... Economically written and well-researched. -- The Times Literary Supplement (London), 5 May 1995

"Karski's is a fantastic story and the authors tell it well. This is a riveting as well as a harrowing read." -- The Times (London), 26 Jan. 1995

"The biography of one Polish Catholic, Jan Karski, will enrich and edify anyone who reads it... highly dramatic... compelling and filled with moral lessons for today." -- Commonweal, 5 April 1996

"This book is a must for any student of history who wishes to have some understanding of how the British and the Americans reacted to the news of the Holocaust, of what was done or not done to try and stop it, and of Polish-Jewish relations during the war." -- Australian Jewish News, 12 April 1996

"Well-researched and unfailingly interesting." -- The American Spectator, April 1995

More About the Author

Tom Wood is a journalist and sometime historian based in Nashville, Tennessee, which is his hometown and the subject of much of his writing over the years. But along with an abiding curiosity about all aspects of the city's past and present, he has also developed interests and expertise in a range of other subjects related to the Holocaust, the history of U.S. military aviation, the development of modern intelligence and counterterrorism efforts, irregular warfare by Confederate forces during the American Civil War, U.S. business history, European Union affairs and other fields.

His books include Karski: How One Man Tried to Stop the Holocaust (Wiley, 1994; with Stanislaw M. Jankowski), a biography of "Righteous Gentile" Jan Karski (1914-2000), who risked his life in 1942 to bear witness to the unfolding extermination of Poland's Jews and to carry news of the Shoah to the West. The Karski book sold over 10,000 copies and received positive reviews throughout the English-speaking world and in Germany, where it has appeared in three different translated editions. Wood made broadcast media appearances related to the book on CNN, National Public Radio, the BBC World Service), the Australian Broadcasting Co. and German and Polish national television, among other outlets.

Together with Nashville author John Egerton, Wood conceived and edited the multi-author publication Nashville: An American Self-Portrait in 2001. Participating authors in this collection of essays and photographs included David Halberstam, Roy Blount Jr., Bruce Feiler, Jean Bethke Elshtain and Lamar Alexander, as well as legendary sportswriter Fred Russell (the book contains his last published work). Wood secured funding for the project from a venture capital firm, and he recruited and developed chapter concepts with a majority of the authors involved. Southern Living magazine hailed it as "a monumental undertaking" and "a glorious tribute."

Among several book projects Wood has been developing in recent years is a biography of Nashville-born Lt. Gen. Frank M. Andrews, an air power pioneer who was a top candidate to lead the Allied invasion of Europe until his untimely death in 1943.

Wood has been a reporter and editor for locally owned news organization SouthComm Inc. and its predecessors since 2005. He has previously reported for The New York Times (both domestically and internationally), The Wall Street Journal and many other news outlets, and he has served as editor of a national trade publication as well as a pair of city magazines.

He is a graduate of Vanderbilt University and holds an M.Phil. in European Studies from the University of Cambridge. His Cambridge master's thesis on late 19th-century "wars on terror" against anarchist violence, submitted in 2002, has been cited by scholars researching the origins of modern counterterrorism practices.

Wood lives in Nashville with his wife, fellow author Nicki Pendleton Wood, and their daughter.

Customer Reviews

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This is a must read for those who want to learn the truth.
JoJo
Carefully researched and documented, it gives context and additional details that weren't included in Karski's famous book "Story of a Secret State."
The Virginian
Sooner or later things do generally work out; it is the good that we do of which we can be proud.
lector avidus

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Robert Berkman on August 17, 2000
Format: Paperback
Jan Karski, who died in July 2000, was a larger than life hero from World War II, who tried to smuggle out information from Nazi occupied Poland to warn the rest of the world about the horrors happening to the Jewish population of his country. He was captured by the Nazis, tortured, escaped, eventually met with President Roosevelt, and truly lived an unbelievably brave and inspiring life. The story is better than any fictional thriller or Hollywood movie. You have to keep reminding yourself that what you are reading is true. It keeps your attention throughout the book, though the last couple of chapters are less exciting naturally than the rest, once the war is over. One has to wonder if there are people like Jan Karski living today...
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Jotz on August 21, 2002
Format: Paperback
I first heard about Jan Karski when I read his obituary in the New York Times a few years back. After reading the obituary, I thought that this guy led an exciting and profound life, and that his life story would make a great book and/or movie (Steven Speilberg, are you listening?). That's why I'm glad I found this book.
Jan Karski was a young diplomat in Poland when the Germans invaded in 1939. Before the invasion, he seemed to be more interested in the political power struggles of the day rather than the moral and ethical quandaries of war. That soon changed after he was taken prisoner and sent to both Soviet and Nazi prison camps. He spent the war years secretly delivering messages around Europe for the Polish underground, and word of his exploits soon spread among the Allies. He was later sent to Britian and later, the United States, where he became a citizen and lived out the rest of his life.
His near-famous quest to relay the horrors of the Holocaust to the skeptical Allies is only one facet of this individual's life. The authors excelled at opening my eyes to the political infighting among various factions of the Polish resistance (politics doesn't die in wartime, it just goes underground, I learned), and they seemed to paint Karski as an individual who became more interested in working for human freedom and dignity than for carving a political legacy for himself in a postwar Poland.
Karski's days in Britain got a bit dry in the book; his wartime adventures in occupied Europe and his postwar days at Georgetown University (as the world began to recognize his contributions) held my attention the most.
As a bonus, a guide to the many characters Karski dealt with in his life is included in the appendix...a handly tool for keeping track of who's who in this book.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By lector avidus on October 30, 2007
Format: Paperback
Thomas Wood, an American journalist, and Stanislav Jankowski, a Polish historian, have written this biography of Jan Karski, who was chosen by the Polish resistance to escape from Poland and go tell the Allies that the Germans were committing a genocide against Poland's Jews.

Karski, a universally respected diplomat, was infiltrated into Warsaw's Ghetto and into a German concentration camp to witness the harrowing persecution in progress and thus be able to swear to the Allied leaders he warned that his testimony was based on his own eyes' witness. During World War One the British had concocted propaganda falsely accusing the Germans of incredible and senseless brutality in Belgium, such as throwing infants into the air to catch them on bayonets, not least in order to draw the United States into the war. Tragically, many of the leaders Karski met, including FDR, Justice Felix Frankfurter, and Rabbi Stephen Wise found Karski's accounts to be so disturbing and unfathomable that they couldn't believe them, believing instead that the Polish government in exile was concocting atrocity propaganda of its own to once again embroil America in Europe's fighting.

Karski also served as a courier in the Polish resistance, worked for the Polish government in exile in various capacities, taught at Georgetown University, and more. A fascinating man, with a fascinating and righteous life, any account of his life is worth reading.

And yet, more than a few improvements could be made to this book. At a scant 250 pages of text, excluding glossaries, indexes and more, it's incredibly short for a life as rich as Karski's.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By The Virginian on December 4, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This biography is the definitive book in English about the Polish Underground hero of World War II Jan Karski. Carefully researched and documented, it gives context and additional details that weren't included in Karski's famous book "Story of a Secret State." I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in World War II history, heroic figures, and inspiring people worth reading about.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By ColleenJulie on December 2, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Its easy to find plenty of books written about the horrors of the Nazi Holocaust, but there just isn't enough commonly known about those who tried (sadly, mostly in vain) to tell the world what was happening in the 1940's German-occupied Poland. This is a history of Jan Karski - a Polish Catholic courier and diplomat, who witnessed some of the horrors done to the Jews, and then spent several frustrating years trying to convince Anyone in Any country to DO something about it. Definitely, the grossly exaggerated propaganda of WW1 hindered Karski in getting his message out - the atrocities were not true most of the time in WW1, and this gave the Nazi's the perfect cover for their gruesome acts in WW2 - it was just too hard for the world to imagine that anyone could be that cruel and murderous to a whole people. I very much appreciated reading about Karski's life and this often overlooked part of history.

The book is a bit hard to follow at times as the various factions of the Polish Gov't. in Exile aren't covered in much specific depth on their tenets; but its enough here to know that the many groups were too busy putting their own ideas forth that they most often couldn't be bothered to help the Jews. The Allies were Never behind a free and independent Poland; and the various factions were doomed to lose their country to the division that was made of it, with No Polish input into the arrangements made even before the war ended.

Anyone who reads this should also search out Jan's videotaped interview on the Jewish ghetto on Youtube - his spoken words and the difficulty of digging up old memories is even more memorable and heartbreaking than just reading them.
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