Powerful ‘Remember This: The Lesson of Jan Karski’ Now a Film
By January 26, 2023 0 1555•
Anyone who has seen the stage production of the overwhelming, extraordinary one-man play, “Remember This: The Lesson of Jan Karski,” featuring David Strathairn as Jan Karski — who witnessed the Nazi treatment of Jews and other prisoners and reported back to the British and American governments — left the theater a little exhausted and heartbroken at the human condition. The work shows human nature at its worst and at its most resilient. Still, one remains grateful that such man as Karski, who was a professor at Georgetown University for 40 years, walked on this earth.
Some Karski quotes include “Governments have no soul” and “All I can say is that I saw it, and it is the truth.” His students at Georgetown can easily recall his wise words.
Awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously in 2012 to Karski, who died in 2000, President Barack Obama said, “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… who told the truth, all the way to President Roosevelt himself.”
Strathairn (“Good Night, and Good Luck,” “Lincoln,” “Nomadland”) portrays Karski in this true story of a reluctant World War II hero and Holocaust witness. The play now has been made into a film — and will reach a wider audience that it so deserves. Its message about the Holocaust is timeless — and necessary.
The film will open nationwide in theaters tomorrow, Jan. 27, International Holocaust Remembrance Day. PBS will broadcast the TV premiere of the film on March 13. It is a production of Sobremesa Media.
Here are the story notes: After surviving the devastation of the Blitzkrieg, Karski swears allegiance to the Polish Underground and risks his life to carry the first eyewitness reports of war-torn Poland to the Western world and, ultimately, the Oval Office. Escaping a Gestapo prison, bearing witness to the despair of the Warsaw Ghetto and confronted by the inhumanity of a death camp, Karski endures unspeakable mental anguish and physical torture to stand tall in the halls of power and speak the truth. Strathairn captures the complexity and legacy of this self-described “insignificant, little man” whose timely story of moral courage and individual responsibility can still shake the conscience of the world.
The theatrical production of “Remember This: The Lesson of Jan Karski,” written by Clark Young and Derek Goldman and directed by Goldman, was produced by the Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics at Georgetown University.
Originally conceived as an ensemble production starring Strathairn, the play was first performed in its current form as a solo performance in November 2019 as a featured part of the Centennial Celebration Weekend of Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service, and then in London in January 2020 as part of the 75th Anniversary Commemoration of the Liberation of Auschwitz, in partnership with Human Rights Watch, after which it was invited for performances at leading theaters and festivals around the world.