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Story of a Secret State Paperback – November 1, 2001


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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Those who fear they have been desensitized by the sheer volume of information chronicling Nazi brutality in occupied Europe must read this memoir. During WWII, Karski lived an adventurous but harrowing existence, which included time and torture in a Gestapo prison and work in the Polish underground, where he witnessed and reported to Allied officials the first news of the genocide of Jews. His accounts of his activities and the atrocities he witnessed were compiled as they happened, which gives his story shattering impact. There are episodes of high tension as he and his colleagues seek to avoid capture. Other stories are horrific as he conveys the sadism of Nazi overlords allowed to exercise virtually unlimited power over helpless people. Even more shocking was the apparent disbelief or indifference of some Allied officials to his reports, either because they suspected exaggeration or because the truth was too monstrous to accept. This is an exciting but often painful recounting of one man’s witness to terror and tragedy. --Jay Freeman --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

Jan Karski's Story of a Secret State stands in the absolute first rank of books about the resistance in World War II. If you wish to read about a man more courageous and honorable than Jan Karski I would have no idea who to recommend. Yes, it's that good. -- Alan Furst It deserves its status as a Penguin Classic, not only because it is a great historic document, but also because it's a cracking good read: Karski's adventures are worthy of the wildest spy thriller -- Nigel Jones Telegraph His account of his missions is an electrifying tale of false identities, near captures, spies and secret film capsules ... in human terms, Karski's account is invaluable -- Frank Trentmann Daily Express Story of a Secret State is now viewed as a classic insider's account of the Resistance in occupied Europe...After all the harrowing descriptions of Holocaust horrors there have been over the years from survivors of Auschwitz, Belsen, and Ravensbruck, Karski's vivid account of what he saw back in 1942 is still deeply moving. We feel his shock and incredulity that this could really be happening in 20th century 'civilised' Europe. -- Tony Rennell Daily Mail The bravery of the man who risked all to tell the world about the Holocaust is truly staggering ... an extraordinary testament to Man's inhumanity to Man, and the even more remarkable courage required to resist it -- Ben McIntyre The Times Karski's exploration of the moral fog in which he and his colleagues operated ... made me recall thrillers like Man Hunt and Hangmen Also Die ... two episodes resemble scenes tantalisingly directed by Hitchcock ... Karski's account of the systematic brutality of the Nazi regime is literally chilling -- Peter Conrad The Observer Reads like the screenplay to an incredibly exciting war movie - but it is all true -- Andrew Roberts Seared with an urgency that pitches the reader into the heart of the horror -- Ben Felsenburg Metro His story deserves not just revival but reflection ... Karski's electrifying words still speak only too eloquently for themselves -- Marek Kohn Independent --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Simon Publications (November 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1931541396
  • ISBN-13: 978-1931541398
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,020,021 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

It is so well written and gripping.
C M Cotton
In Story of a Secret State, Jan Karski recounts his work with the Polish Underground during WWII.
Suzanne
That form of selfless courage will touch any reader's soul.
Tom Rozman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

50 of 53 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 28, 2002
Format: Paperback
This book was assigned for a graduate course I took in Eastern European history; I couldn't believe that any required reading could be so exciting. It is the true story of Jan Karski's experience as a messenger for the Polish underground, and it doesn't include a dull page. Karski completed several missions, was captured by the Germans, and escaped. The leaders of Poland's Jewish community, knowing that Karski was going to the West, arranged for him to disguise himself as a guard in a death camp so that he could witness the atrocities. He not only went and included his horrifying experiences in this book, he personally reported what he saw to president Roosevelt and other prominent Americans. Karski knew that the West was betraying Poland and, as a last ditch effort to influence Western policy, he wrote and published this book in 1944. It was a best seller and, I believe, a Book-of-the-month club selection. So much for not knowing about what Hitler was doing to the Jews! Do read this amazing story and, to get the full background, read the book "Karksi, How One Man Tried to Stop the Holocaust," by E. Thomas Wood.
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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful By William L. Harwood on June 17, 2002
Format: Paperback
This book belongs on everybody's short list of Polish and East European history. Jan Karski was a truly heroic man and is story is told in plain, straightforward langauge as the story of one man who took enormous risks to tell the story of the Holocaust. A necessary corrective to much of the polemic on the complex issue of Poles and the Nazi occupation. Not to be missed. This is the second anniversary of his death here in Washington.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Jan Peczkis on June 20, 2006
Format: Paperback
Jan Karski's trip to England and the US, which warned the Allies of the Holocaust in progress, is well known. However, Karski is often incorrectly thought of as some sort of unusual moral giant who tried to save the Jews all on his own. In fact, as this book makes clear, his heroic trip was planned, ordered, and performed in the context of his active, multifaceted involvement in the Polish Underground. For example, Karski's visit to the Belzec death camp was facilitated by a rendezvous on the nearby property of a Polish farmer who was also a member of the Underground (p. 340).

Karski was involved in the defense of Poland from the first hours of WWII. A few authors (e. g. Alfred-Maurice de Zayas) have tried to deny the existence of a German fifth column during the German-Soviet conquest of Poland (September-October 1939). In actuality, Karski's very unit came under fire from members of this fifth column (p. 8). The attackers were Polish citizens of German descent.

Karski ended up in Soviet and then German captivity. He repeatedly writes of the unbelievable barbarity of both conquerors. While in a Gestapo prison, Karski slashed his wrists in an unsuccessful suicide attempt. He had feared that he might break down under the incessant torture and betray his confidants in the Polish Underground. Karski was freed by a daring commando attack by the Underground combined with a well-placed bribe of a German guard.

Karski elaborates on the forced Germanization of Poznan (pp. 78-82), something attempted unsuccessfully before under Frederick the Great and then Bismarck. The Poles were brutally expelled. Very few of the remaining Poles chose to register as Germans and thus become Volksdeutsche.

Karski (p.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Craddock Edwards from Bristol on July 3, 2011
Format: Hardcover
First published in the USA in 1944, this edition was updated by the author just before his death in 2000, the recent French edition racked up a respectable 150.000 plus sales. This Penguin Classics edition is the first UK puiblication.
Jan Karski is credited with being the first man to inform the Allies of the Holocaust when he smuggled microfilm evidence out of Poland in 1943. Even after meetings with Anthony Eden in London and Roosevelt in Washington - he was basically ignored.
'Story of a Secret State, My Report to the World' is Jan Karski's story of his introduction and involvement with the Polish underground resistance (the 'secret' State within a State) starting with his 'capture' by the Red Army, being involved in a prisoner exchange with the Nazis and his escape whilst being transported to a German Labour Camp.
Karski's tale is to say the least heroic but he writes in a rather understated, matter of fact way, something captured in an excellent translation. 4 years of slipping in out of not only German occupied Polish towns but between countries as well. Captured by the Gestapo, tortured, he was rescued and smuggled into the Warsaw Ghetto. He then disguised himself as a guard to get first hand evidence of a Nazi death camp, and travelled across occupied Europe to get this evidence to England - but to very little or no avail.
This book is a witness to history as was the man who wrote it, a patriot and a fighter who was more than willing to lay down his life for his country.
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