How did ordinary human beings set themselves, day after day, against the rampant, satanic evil that German occupation in World War II represented? asks Dr John Besemeres in the Australian Jewish News.
One righteous Catholic who did resist and proved himself a hero of the Holocaust, was Jan Karski.
Karski was born in 1914 and brought up in a strongly Catholic family in a Lodz neighbourhood, where he had many Jewish friends.
After graduating in law and diplomacy at university, further study in a military academy, then a couple of years as a cadet diplomat, Karski found himself as a young officer in the Polish army, overwhelmed by the German blitzkrieg of September 1939.
When he was retreating to the East, Karski and his unit were captured by the Soviets entering Poland to claim their spoils from the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.
He escaped and became an international courier for the underground, dispatched on hazardous, circuitous routes to France and later London, where the emergent Polish government in exile was located.
With help from Jewish underground leaders, he also made covert visits to the Warsaw Ghetto and a German death camp, which affected him deeply.
In late 1942, Karski was chosen for a high-level visit to the government in exile in London. The main priority was to explain to the Allies the full horror of the unfolding mass murder of Europe’s Jews in occupied Poland.
After a meeting with Karski, Polish President Raczkiewicz wrote a strong letter to Pope Pius XII and pleaded with him to publicly denounce the Germans’ crimes against the Jews, but without much effect.
In 1981, Karski was persuaded to speak about his experiences for the first time in public.
“The Lord assigned me a role to speak and write during the war, when – as it seemed to me – it might help. It did not,” Karski said.
“Furthermore when the war came to an end I learnt that the governments, the leaders, the scholars, the writers did not know what had been happening to the Jews … The murder of six million innocents was a secret.
“I am a practising Catholic. Although I am not a heretic, still my faith tells me the second original sin has been committed: through commission or omission, or self-imposed ignorance, or insensitivity, or self-interest, or hypocrisy, or heartless rationalisation.
FULL STORY A righteous hero (AJN)