We are thrilled to notify you that President Barack Obama has announced he will honor Jan Karski with the Presidential Medal of Freedom May 29, 2012. The Telegram & Gazette carried this story about the award to Jan Karski and about Marc P. Smith’s play, Karski. This recognition has been a central mission of the Jan Karski U.S. Centennial Campaign committee. Susan L. Smith has been in communication with the committee to identify ways to incorporate Marc’s play, Karski, into the centennial events in 2014, and on a more long-range basis, into curricula within university, high school, and middle-school settings. We’ll keep you up to date as these collaborative plans progress. Their website: www.jankarski.net
Meanwhile, here are the moving words of President Obama regarding his decision to award this honor to Jan Karski:
“We must tell our children about how this evil was allowed to happen; because so many people succumbed to their darkest instincts; because so many others stood silent. But let us also tell our children about the Righteous Among the Nations. 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 honor him with America’s highest civilian honor: the Presidential Medal of Freedom.”
Marc P. Smith’s play Karski was written in 2009, and from 2009-2010 the play was presented in several Massachusetts venues, in New York City (The Kosciuszko Foundation, May 2010), and in Poland (the Lutheran Church in Wroclaw and Kreisau/Krzyzowa)
Detlef Gericke-Schoenhagen, Director of the Goethe Institut-Boston and Susan Smith at The Hanover Theater, Worcester, June 1, 2011. Photo by: Claudia Snell
Susan L. Smith gave a special talk on her late husband Marc’s most recent theatrical work, The Kreisau Project, and the paths opened by this multi-year creative pursuit. The presentation, on June 1, 2011, at The Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts in Worcester, had previously been scheduled for Marc as part of the Center’s Access Hanover speakers’ series. The Kreisau Project centers on a pair of plays Marc wrote and produced dealing with both German and Polish resistance against the Nazis. The plays, “A Journey to Kreisau” and “Karski,” were presented in several U.S. cities as well as in Germany and Poland.
Emmy Award winning and Oscar nominated producer, director, cameraman, and editor, Slawomir Grunberg is creating a documentary film about Jan Karski, a hero of the Polish underground who acted as a courier during World War II, carrying his reports of the atrocities he witnessed to Britain and the U.S.
Grunberg asked Marc to serve as one of eight humanities advisors on this film. Among other members of this advisory panel are: Prof. Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, Polish writer and historian who was a colleague of Jan Karski’s, a former political prisoner at Auschwitz, and former Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs; Michael Berenbaum, professor of Jewish Studies at American Jewish University and, from 1988-1993, Project Director of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., overseeing its creation; and Sir Martin Gilbert, who is the official biographer of Winston Churchill, and has published six volumes of the Churchill biography, as well as histories of the first and second World Wars, histories of Israel and of the Holocaust.
The film, Jan Karski & The Lords of Humanity, will employ animation techniques such as rotoscoping intertwined with archival footage including authentic voice-over of Karski as well as modern-day documentary scenes and interviews.
Marc noted: “It is exhilarating to be involved in an advisory capacity with this film project, especially with a panel of such diversity and international renown. It’s not false modesty when I mention that this is a panel of 7 distinguished scholars…plus me.”
“Focusing on the von Moltke family,…(and) showing that there was resistance, Marc Smith not only provided a fuller picture (of the Holocaust), he was able to create an important legacy to German youth: it is not necessary to follow; it is, actually, necessary to stand up for that which is right. I emphasize German youth, because there were about half a dozen German M.A. students in the audience, and they were clearly moved….That, I think, is quite an achievement in and of itself.” SunHee Kim Gertz, Prof., Director of Graduate Studies in English, Clark University
“The students responded very positively to Marc’s personal approach. His personal investment in history was, I believe, something of a revelation to them. For them to see that history does matter, and that how history is told is of great importance…was magical.” Rachel Freudenburg, Assoc. Prof., German Studies, Boston College
“It was truly amazing to hear Marc talk about his metamorphosis from being a youth taught to hate and fear Germany and the German people to an adult who actively participates in German/Jewish reconciliation. The time for reconciliation is overdue and we can’t wait to see the production of ‘A Journey to Kreisau.’” David G. Brother, Adult Programming, Congregation Shalom, N. Chelmsford, MA
“One of the largest audiences ever to attend a Friends of the Hopedale Library event was enthralled by Marc’s talk of the series of events that swept him into an international group working for German-Jewish reconciliation.” Glenn Ickler, Board member, Hopedale