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Holocaust Memory: The Memoirs and Memory of Jan Karski

The Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism at Birkbeck will be holding an event on ‘The Memoirs...

A Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism event
Wednesday 1 February, 6pm

The Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism at Birkbeck, University of London, in partnership with the Institute of Historical Research, will be holding a roundtable event on ‘The Memoirs and Memory of Jan Karski’ on Wednesday 1 February at 6pm.

Leading experts on the Holocaust and Polish history will discuss the legacy of Jan Karski, a messenger for the Polish Resistance during the Second World War, who risked his life to keep the exiled Polish government and the Allies informed of the situation in occupied Poland. Karski was even smuggled into the Warsaw ghetto and spent time in a concentration camp so was able to alert the Allies to the atrocities that were taking place, bringing the first eye-witness accounts of the plight of the Jews out of occupied Europe.

Michael Berkowitz, whose research includes ways of understanding and misunderstanding the Holocaust; Antony Polonsky, an expert on Polish history; and Annette Wieviorka, one of France’s foremost historians on the Holocaust, will explore the story of Jan Karski, which has been recounted and, in many cases, manipulated and misinterpreted by film-makers, novelists and journalists. The panel will consider not only Karski’s own memoirs, Courier for Poland: The Story of a Secret State, but also the controversial ‘Karski Affair’ which followed the publication of a fictionalised account of Karski’s 1943 meeting with Franklin D. Roosevelt and which caused fury among academics and others. A 1985 film, Shoah, by Claude Lanzmann, likewise troubled audiences, including Karski himself.

The distinguished panel will explore the connections and controversies which have revolved around Karski both during and after his lifetime, consider the mythology that has built around the Karski story and try to separate fact from fiction. Ultimately, they hope to engage in a broader discussion about representation, testimony and the transnational effects of Holocaust memory in America, France, the UK and Poland.

The event will take place on Wednesday 1 February from 6pm – 7:45pm, in the Beveridge Hall at Senate House, University of London (WC1E 7HU). Entry is free, but attendees should register.

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