A sculpture in the Polish city of Krakow showing Holocaust hero Jan Karski. Photo: Screenshot.
An off-Broadway solo performance about the World War II Polish resistance fighter and hero Jan Karski premiered this month at the Polonsky Shakespeare Center in New York City.
“Remember This: The Lesson of Jan Karski,” presented by Theatre for a New Audience (TFANA), is a story of “moral courage and individual responsibility” starring Oscar nominee and “Nomadland” actor David Strathairn as Karski, who died in 2000.
Karski was captured by the German invading forces while serving in the Polish army in 1939 but escaped when he was being deported to a POW camp. He went on to serve in the Polish underground resistance.
In 1942, Karski risked his life by transporting a report that provided first-hand eyewitness testimony about the horrors taking place in Nazi-occupied Poland, including in the Warsaw Ghetto and a Nazi-run transit camp. He traveled to London, relayed the report to the Polish government-in-exile, and also met with then-British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and other politicians, journalists, and public figures. Karski afterwards went on to the United States, where he met with US President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
“Remember This: The Lesson of Jan Karski” was created at The Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics at Georgetown University, where Karski earned his doctorate and taught for four decades after World War II. The solo performance is directed by Derek Goldman, who worked with Clark Young on creating a script almost solely based on Karski’s own words with contributions from his former students and colleagues.
“Remember This” premiered in 2019 at Georgetown University and then played in London at the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. It has also been performed in Washington, D.C, and Chicago.
In an address to Holocaust scholars at the US State Department in 1981, Karski, a devout Catholic, said, “My faith makes me say that humanity has committed a second original sin by allowing the Holocaust. This sin will haunt humanity until the end of the world. It haunts me. I want it to stay that way.” The Jan Karski Educational Foundation and the Jan Karski Society were both established in his memory.
“Remember This: The Lesson of Jan Karski” will run at the Polonsky Shakespeare Center through October 9.