Unless correspondents ask us not to, this Website will post selected letters that it receives and invite open debate.
writes from Costa Mesa, California, July 18, 2000
More on Jan Karski
With reference to Alan Heath's letter concerning the late Jan Karski.
ALAN Heath writes: "As far as I am aware there are no claims that Karski entered the death camp." It is obvious that Heath hasn't searched very hard for evidence to the contrary, since in his 1944 book The Story of a Secret State (Boston: Houghton Mifflin) Jan Karski wrote: "A few days after my second visit to the Warsaw ghetto, the Bund leader was to arrange an opportunity for me to see the Jewish death camp. The camp was located near the town of Belzec." (p. 344) The following pages leave no doubt that Karski claimed to have entered the camp. Perhaps that's why Karski's obituary in the Los Angeles Times (July 15) reported: "Later, disguised as an Estonian guard, he was admitted to the death camp at Belzec..."
Karski's biographers, E. Thomas Wood and Stanislaw Jankowski, who enjoyed his full cooperation, write in Karski: How One Man Tried to Stop the Holocaust (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1994): "The village Jan reached was not Belzec, nor did Jan think it was Belzec while he was there... By the time he began retelling his story publicly in 1944, the town he had reached had become Belzec itself." (p. 128)
Come on, Mr. Heath! Jan Karski's demise isn't grabbing headlines because he was a Holocaust propagandist -- which he was -- but because he claimed to have witnessed the Holocaust, at risk to his own life.
A careful reading of my article, which was closely based on a study by David Engel that appeared in the journal Jewish Social Studies, might have revealed to Mr. Heath that my criticism was not of Karski's description of wartime Polish anti-Semitism. I merely pointed out, following Engel, that Karski accompanied his factual observations with a version showing Poles as deeply sympathetic to the plight of Jews. The latter was published by the Polish government in exile, following Karski's recommendation. Of course it was wartime, and Mr. Heath's "security reasons" may justify having falsified the facts.
The issue, today, however, is the truth. However noble and patriotic the motives that impelled Karski to lie about Belzec; to publish his stomach-turning libels about German boys habitually shooting Jews in the Warsaw ghetto; to suppress Polish anti-Semitism; and to give wartime public assent to the lie that the Germans, not the Soviets, had perpetrated Katyn -- now, at long last, we have the right to the truth.
Oh, and those bone fragments Mr. Heath affects to have seen at Belzec? In place of a personal visit, I'd welcome an investigation. To date I've seen no evidence that the sort of thorough police investigation that accompanies a single murder in civilized countries has ever been conducted, postwar, at any of the alleged "death" (or "extermination") camps. Alas, Mr. Heath would seem to repose more trust in the testimony of wagging tongues than that of the spade and more advanced implements. Strange, for an archeologist...
Mr O'Keefe is an editor associated with the revisionist Journal of Historical Review in California.
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