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Tel Aviv University paid tribute Thursday to Poland's most revered World War II resistance fighter, Jan Karski, by unveiling a bench with a sculpture of the man who first reported the horrors of the Holocaust to the West and is considered among the righteous gentiles.
"This is only the third such monument to him outside of Poland," Agnieszka Magdziak-Miszewska, Poland's Ambassador to Israel, told The Jerusalem Post, adding that apart from one in Poland, two others are located in the US.
She said the Tel Aviv University monument only served to strengthen ties between Israel and Poland, which in recent years have been working hard to come to terms with its role in the Holocaust.
Karski, who in the years following the war was made an honorary citizen of Israel, became part of the Polish resistance against the Nazi-appointed government in Warsaw. Sent to uncover information on the regime and to assist partisans, Karski also ventured into the Warsaw Ghetto twice in 1942 and was smuggled into the Belzec concentration camp to witness the final solution.
Seeing first hand the horrors faced by both Polish Jews and those from across Europe, Karski took the information to London, to the Polish government in exile and also met with a host of British politicians to tell them what he had seen. Among those Karski met with were British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden and well-known journalist Arthur Koestler.
In 1943, he traveled to the US and told of what he had seen to President Franklin Roosevelt.
According to Magdziak-Miszewska, who has become an expert on Holocaust history in her country, Karski's story was forgotten after the war, lost amidst the growing tide of communism in the following two decades.
"Nobody in Poland was comfortable speaking about what had happened during the Holocaust," she said, adding that over the last 20 years Karski's story has grabbed the public's imagination and he has emerged as one of the greatest heroes of the Second World War.
As for Karski, he moved to the US after the war and taught at Georgetown University in Washington for some 40 years. He passed away in 2000.
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