East 37th Street at Madison, outside the Polish Consulate
Karski is depicted life size, seated on a park bench with a chess set and board on the seat to his right. A game is in progress, though I am too much of a novice to know if Karski is winning or losing. Perhaps tellingly, Karski is gazing off to his right, away from the board, as though he were watching his opponent leave in a huff. He has his legs crossed and is holding a cane in his hands. The monument was designed by Karol Badyna of Krakow.
Karski was an avid chess player and, so the story goes, was playing chess when he died in 2000.
The monument was dedicated on Nov. 11, 2007, which is Independence Day in Poland. It was intended to be “in recognition of Karski’s wartime courage and lifelong commitment to the memory and history of Polish Jews,” according to the consulate. The ceremony began at 3 p.m. on an overcast, misty day. Presiding was Cantor Joseph Malovany. The Academic Choir of Poznan University in Poland also was on hand. Later that day, at 7, there was a performance of Polish music at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Krzysztof Kasprzyk, Poland’s consul general, said Karski was a true citizen of the world and a genuine hero. He was a symbol of human integrity and dignity, a man who spent his life pursuing, promoting and teaching the truth about one of the darkest periods in human history. His name and his story should always be remembered.”
A report by The Associated Press ran down the typical blah, blah, blah:
Maciej Kozlowski, Poland’s former ambassador to Israel, said Karski “was a man of remarkable courage, insight and integrity.” Kozlowski, currently director of Poland’s foreign affairs ministry, said Karski told him that he never forgot what he had witnessed and that it still “stood in front of his eyes.”
Others called Karski a “legendary hero” and said his actions symbolized “the highest level of humanity.”
“Jan Karski was a Polish hero and an unusual one because he was a hero for” Jews in Poland, former Mayor Ed Koch said.
After the war, Karski studied at Georgetown University, where he later taught international affairs, government and other subjects for decades.
Kasprzyk read a letter from Bill Clinton, who was a student of Karski’s, in which the former president called Karski a “remarkable individual” who “risked his life” and showed “moral courage.” The recognition, Clinton said, was “richly deserved.”
Jan Karski was born Jan Kozielewski in Lodz, Poland, on June 24, 1914. Karski is considered to be the first person to give an eyewitness account to western leaders of the Warsaw Ghetto and, generally, the atrocities of the Holocaust. He died on July 13, 2000. You can read more about him here.
The Beaux Arts De Lamar House was designed by the architect Charles Pierrepont Henry Gilbert on a commission from Joseph Rafael De Lamar, a Dutch merchant seaman who made his fortune in metallurgy. Construction was completed in 1906. It’s an official landmark of the city’s Landmark Preservation Commission.
- Updated Nov. 14, 2007.