In commemoration of Yom Ha Shoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, a staged reading of selected scenes from Marc P. Smith’s play, Karski, was the focus of a remembrance event on April 15th, presented by the synagogues of Central Massachusetts and the Jewish Federation of Central Mass. An encouragingly large turnout, with all ages represented, provided a rapt and attentive audience for the powerful story of Jan Karski. This Polish underground hero is referred to as the man who tried to stop the Holocaust; his courage in bearing witness is a story worth re-telling, especially through the immediacy of live theatre.
Among many comments on this play:
“There are many ways to present the little-known story of incredible individual courage in perilous times. Film, biography, painting, lectures—but to this list should be added theater. Reading Marc Smith’s play about Jan Karski is a powerful experience. I am confident that performers and audiences alike will be transformed by presenting and watching ‘Karski’ on stage. I encourage actors at schools and community theaters to tackle this powerful material.” – Wanda Urbanska (former president, Jan Karski Educational Foundation)
“I was so moved by the staged reading of Karski. It served to remind me of the atrocities committed against fellow human beings that we must never be allowed to forget.” -Pauline Gallant (R.N, Retired School Nurse)
“Karski’s story is heart wrenching and inspiring; it seems unthinkable and beyond believing, even though we now know better. The story revealed in Karski is ancient history to today’s school kids. So it’s imperative to keep alive the truth of it. The past is easily forgotten. We need to be reminded—over and over—forever.” – Martha M. Hesse (Retired Educator)
The non-profit organization Facing History and Ourselves, headquartered in Brookline, MA, has made the scripts of A Journeyto Kreisau and Karski accessible to their national and international teacher network through this page on their website.
Since this posting, we’ve already received and replied to requests from six educators across the U.S. and in Poland.
In case you’ve not heard of Facing History and Ourselves, a visit to their website should be tremendously interesting. From their website, here is their defining purpose:
To help teachers and students confront the complexities of history in ways that promote critical thinking, academic achievement, and moral development. Facing History uses the tools of education to combat bigotry and nurture democracy.
So it should be no surprise that Facing History staff members who have read Marc’s two scripts feel the plays should definitely be part of the resources the organization makes available to its teachers. That teacher network, incidentally, numbers some 14,000 educators nationally and internationally, largely for students in grades 7 through 12, with a small percentage on faculties of two-year or four-year colleges.
Among the opportunities that educators will have is receiving a copy of one or both of the scripts, for classroom study purposes only. Once a teacher has signed and returned the letter of agreement, I will also sign the letter and send a copy back to the teacher and e-mail the script. For these classroom study purposes, no royalties will be charged. For any performance(s) of the play, a customized letter of agreement will be drawn up to cover the particulars for that educator’s request (inquire by email).
We are thrilled to notify you that President Barack Obama has announced he will honor Jan Karski with the Presidential Medal of Freedom May 29, 2012. The Telegram & Gazette carried this story about the award to Jan Karski and about Marc P. Smith’s play, Karski. This recognition has been a central mission of the Jan Karski U.S. Centennial Campaign committee. Susan L. Smith has been in communication with the committee to identify ways to incorporate Marc’s play, Karski, into the centennial events in 2014, and on a more long-range basis, into curricula within university, high school, and middle-school settings. We’ll keep you up to date as these collaborative plans progress. Their website: www.jankarski.net
Meanwhile, here are the moving words of President Obama regarding his decision to award this honor to Jan Karski:
“We must tell our children about how this evil was allowed to happen; because so many people succumbed to their darkest instincts; because so many others stood silent. But let us also tell our children about the Righteous Among the Nations. Among them was Jan Karski ; a young Polish Catholic who witnessed Jews being put on cattle cars, who saw the killings, and who told the truth, all the way to President Roosevelt himself. Jan Karski passed away more than a decade ago. But today, I’m proud to announce that this spring I will honor him with America’s highest civilian honor: the Presidential Medal of Freedom.”
Marc P. Smith’s play Karski was written in 2009, and from 2009-2010 the play was presented in several Massachusetts venues, in New York City (The Kosciuszko Foundation, May 2010), and in Poland (the Lutheran Church in Wroclaw and Kreisau/Krzyzowa)