The coolest thing Dr. Kirchmann did this summer was reading Jan Karski’s monumental war-time memoir, Story of a Secret State, first published in the United States in 1944. Jan Karski was a courier for the Polish underground resistance, who carried messages back and forth from the underground in Nazi- and Soviet-occupied Poland  to the Polish government-in-exile in the West. He also managed to infiltrate the Jewish Ghetto in Warsaw and a transit camp for Jewish prisoners to serve as an eye-witness. After he made it out of Poland, he carried reports about German atrocities to the British government in London and to the White House, where he met with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter. Karski appealed for intervention to stop the Holocaust – but in vain.

After the war, Karski remained in the United States, earned his Ph.D. from Georgetown University, where he also later taught in the School of Foreign Service. He continued to write and speak on the issues of the Holocaust and international relations. In 1982, Yad Vashem in Jerusalem awarded him the title of a Righteous Among the Nations, and the Israeli government declared him an Honorary Citizen in 1994.

Karski’s book became a national and then world bestseller and was translated into many different languages. It serves as an amazing document of courage and humanity. It is also a captivating read and Dr. Kirchmann recommends it to everyone!

For more information about Jan Karski, his life and career, and about his book, see

Dr. Kirchmann posed for a picture on the Jan Karski bench by the Museum of the History of the Polish Jews in Warsaw this summer.