Jan Karski Corner in Manhattan
Today Madison Avenue at 37th Street has been officially designated Jan Karski Corner. In this way the authorities decided to honour a World War II hero who was the first to inform the West about the Jewish Holocaust in Nazi-occupied Poland
After the war Karski settled in the US. For over 40 years he lectured on international relations at Georgetown University. Bill Clinton had been one of his students. The legendary courier of the Home Army died in Washington nine years ago at the age of 86.
A statue of him stands in front of the Consulate of the Republic of Poland at the corner of Madison Avenue and 37th Street. Jan Karski Corner is the first spot in Manhattan to be named after a Pole.
Consul General Krzysztof W. Kasprzyk, Ewa Junczyk-Ziomecka, Rabbi Meir Lau, and
former Mayor Ed Koch at the celebration to honor WW II hero Jan Karski
Some 500 invited guests from around the world gathered to witness the simple unveiling of a street sign in New York’s tony Murray Hill enclave. Henceforth, the corner of Madison Avenue and 37th Street directly across from the historic De Lamar Beaux Art mansion home to the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland will be known forever as Jan Karski Corner or as one observer dubbed it the “Street Corner of Courage”. Unanimously approved by New York’s City Council and happily assented to by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the renaming honors for all time Jan Karski the Polish diplomat who infiltrated a Nazi concentration camp and was the first to bring to the West word of the Holocaust's horrors. His pleadings to the British and Americans went unheeded. For his bravery and selflessness, Karski is listed in the temple in Jerusalem as one of the “Righteous Among the Nations” which honors the humanitarian efforts of Polish men and women who have been recognized by Yad Vashem for saving Jews from certain death during the Holocaust.Quite a number of Polish, Jewish and American dignitaries were on hand including The Honorable Ewa Junczyk – Ziomecka, Secretary of State at the Chancellery of the President of the Republic of Poland; The Honorable Edward Koch, former New York City Mayor; His Excellency Maciej Kozlowski of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Warsaw; former Ambassador of Poland to Israel ; John De Gioia, the President of Georgetown University; Robert Gallucci, the Dean of Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown; and Robert Billingsley, the chair of Georgetown University John Carroll Weekend. They were welcomed by Consul General Krzysztof Kasprzyk, a driving force behind the Karski recognition, who stated “Jan Karski was a legendary Polish underground courier in World War II, the first person to tell the Allies about the Holocaust when there might have been time to stop it. He is a real hero of the Polish and Jewish people."Ed Koch who was for years a close friend and chess playing partner of Karski’s was like many of the guests tremendously moved by the respect and honor to a man of extreme courage. Minutes before the new street sign was unveiled, in the shadow of the Polish Consulate, the former Mayor extolled Karski for his bravery and compassion. "We are here to honor a hero, a saint," Koch said. As minister Ewa Junczyk-Ziomecka said, “Remembering the Righteous among Nations is not only important because of the thousands of people who were saved but also because they saved us all from utter disgrace.” Following the ceremony there as a panel discussion that included other Karski’s former Georgetown colleagues, Righteous Among the Nations as well as a number of Holocaust survivors. Masha Leon, Cultural Editor of The Forward, New York’s first Jewish newspaper, knew Karski as a young girl and was also grateful to The Righteous who hid her and her mother and saved her from certain death in the camps. She wonders to this day who it was. Sitting in the audience renowned filmmaker Albert Maysles nodded sadly.