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Adam Rotfeld to receive US medal on behalf of Jan Karski

PR dla Zagranicy
Peter Gentle 26.05.2012 09:27
Former Polish foreign minister Adam Rotfeld, and not Lech Walesa, as originally expected, will receive the US Medal of Freedom on behalf of the late Jan Karski.
Jan Karski bench in Survivors Park, Łódź. Photo: Wikipedia CommonsJan Karski bench in Survivors Park, Łódź. Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Jan Karski bench in Survivors Park Łódź central Poland: photo - Wikipedia CC Zorro2212

The news that Rotfeld will receive the US's top honour on behalf of Jan Karski at the White House next Tuesday was confirmed by Wanda Urbanska, director of the Jan Karski US Centennial Campaign.

"We are thrilled that the medal will be received by Adam Rotfeld," Urbanska said.

It was originally thought that former Solidarity leader and president of Poland Lech Walesa would pick up the medal from President Barack Obama, but unofficial sources have told the PAP news agency that Adam Rotfeld, foreign minister in Poland in 2005, was a less “political” figure to collect the Medal of Freedom.

Jan Karski served as a courier between occupied Poland and the Polish government-in-exile. In 1942, he was chosen to inform the Polish prime minister in the UK of Nazi atrocities against the Jews, after having himself smuggled into the Warsaw Ghetto to see what was happening first hand.

After World War II, Jan Karski made the United States his home and taught at Georgetown University until his death in 2000.

President Barack Obama said in April when announcing that Karski would receive the Medal of Freedom that we must “tell our children” about those who helped save Jews during WW II.

“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 honour him with America’s highest civilian honour—the Presidential Medal of Freedom.”

Kwasniewski intervenes

The Wprost magazine has published a letter written by two-term president of Poland Aleksander Kwasniewski to Barack Obama, dated 10 February 2012, suggesting the Medal of Freedom should be received by Jewish-American Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel.

“I think someone like Elie Wiesel, who understands the essence and lessons of the Holocaust as no one else should receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom on behalf of Jan Karski,” Kwasniewski writes.

Kwasniewski continues: “I was privileged to know the good professor Jan Karski, both in the days before my presidency, as well as while exercising that function. Jan Karski was a true champion of the struggle for human rights, an enemy of chauvinism and nationalism and promoter of the union between the United States and Poland.” (pg)

tags: Jan Karski
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