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Karski (Jan) papers
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Access
  • Use
  • Acquisition Information
  • Preferred Citation
  • Alternative Forms of Material Available
  • Biographical Note
  • Scope and Content Note
  • Related Material

  • Title: Jan Karski papers
    Date (inclusive): 1939-2007
    Collection Number: 46033
    Contributing Institution: Hoover Institution Library and Archives
    Language of Material: Polish
    Physical Description: 20 manuscript boxes, 11 oversize boxes, 1 oversize folder, 6 card file boxes, 24 photo envelopes, and 26 microfilm reels (21.8 Linear Feet)
    Abstract: Correspondence, memoranda, government documents, bulletins, reports, studies, speeches and writings, printed matter, photographs, clippings, newspapers, periodicals, sound recordings, videotape cassettes, and microfilm, relating to events and conditions in Poland during World War II, the German and Soviet occupations of Poland, treatment of the Jews in Poland during the German occupation, and operations of the Polish underground movement during World War II. Includes microfilm copies of Polish underground publications. Boxes 1-34 also available on microfilm (24 reels). Video use copies of videotape available. Sound use copies of sound recordings available.
    Creator: Karski, Jan, 1914-2000
    Physical Location: Hoover Institution Library & Archives


    The collection is open for research; materials must be requested in advance via our reservation system. If there are audiovisual or digital media material in the collection, they must be reformatted before providing access.


    For copyright status, please contact the Hoover Institution Library & Archives.

    Acquisition Information

    Materials were acquired by the Hoover Institution Library & Archives from 1946 to 2008.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Jan Karski papers, [Box no., Folder no. or title], Hoover Institution Library & Archives.

    Alternative Forms of Material Available

    Boxes 1-34 also available on microfilm (24 reels).

    Biographical Note

    1914 June 24 Born Jan Kozielewski in Lodz
    1935 Law student at University of Lwow
    1939 First mission to the West, France
      Mobilized, September campaign - escapes Soviet imprisonment
      Recruited into the Polish diplomatic service
    1940 Second mission - Failed
    1942 Reports on his mission to representatives of governments of Poland and Great Britain
      Smuggled into Warsaw ghetto and a concentration camp to prepare a report on Nazi war crimes
    1943 Reports about situation in Poland to President Franklin D. Roosevelt and other U.S. officials
    1944 Publishes Story of a Secret State
    1952 Receives PhD from Georgetown University
    1953 Enrolls at School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University
    1954 Naturalized as American citizen. Works for United States Information Service
    1965 Marries Pola Nirenska
    1984 Retires from Georgetown University
    1985 Publishes The Great Powers and Poland
    1994 Made honorary citizen of Israel
    2000 July 13 Dies in Washington D.C.

    Scope and Content Note

    Jan Karski, 1914-2000, born Jan Kozielewski, was a Polish liaison officer working for the Polish underground during World War II. He carried the first eyewitness accounts of the Holocaust to a generally unbelieving West.
    The process of the deposition of his papers at Hoover began in 1946 and lasted for over sixty years. Herbert Hoover, who was aware of Karski's excellent connections within diplomatic circles, enlisted him in 1945 to collect documents of the Polish Government in Exile, which by that time had lost recognition of all western powers who accepted the Soviet-imposed government. Karski went on a trip around the world to urge the former government members to send all available documents to Stanford and deposit them at the Hoover Archives.
    Karski's papers document two main areas of activity: 1) Collecting activities on behalf of the Hoover Library, and 2) Missions to the Government in Exile during World War II
    Karski went on his last top-secret mission across the German territory in 1942 carrying a small suitcase and a microfilm of hundreds of documents. Most of what he conveyed to his superiors in London depended on his amazing ability to memorize dozens of pages and hundreds of names. After he reached his destination safely they were written down. Karski wasn't given access to the documents concerning the publicity surrounding his meetings with influential politicians, journalists or activists until they were opened decades after the war. In the 1980s he visited archival institutions in Europe, Israel and the United States to obtain such copies and incorporate some of their content into this collection. During his trips to Stanford he was presented with documents produced by the Polish government, the agencies he either worked for or was loosely associated with (see list in Related Collections).
    In the Hoover collection of Karski's papers the best sources of information on his mission and its aftermath are twenty volumes of scrapbooks. Karski decided to create them in the mid-1980s. His visitors were given the opportunity to come into contact with documents illustrating his biography. It was the donor's wish to keep them in the same order. A visual file, containing audio and video tapes with interviews and documentaries supplements the information in scrapbooks.
    Besides a few photographs, very little in Karski's papers concerns his personal life. Later demand for information about his family's background compelled him to reproduce photos depicting his relatives before World War II.
    This finding aid was created in 2008 when all of materials Hoover Institution expected to receive were delivered. A register existing before 2008 described the content of the first nine boxes. Since these boxes had been microfilmed the decision was made to keep materials in the same order and not incorporate them into the later acquisitions. Cross references have been provided in the container list.

    Related Material

    Poland. Ambasada (Great Britain) Records, Hoover Institution Library & Archives
    Poland. Ambasada (U.S.) Records, Hoover Institution Library & Archives
    Poland. Ministerstwo Spraw Zagranicznych Records, Hoover Institution Library & Archives
    Stanislaw Mikolajczyk papers, Hoover Institution Library & Archives

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Video tapes
    World War, 1939-1945 -- Underground movements
    World War, 1939-1945 -- Jews
    Poland -- History -- Occupation, 1939-1945
    World War, 1939-1945 -- Poland
    Propaganda, German
    Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945)
    Jews -- Poland
    Sikorski, Władysław, 1881-1943