Karski & The Lords of Humanity

Karski & The Lords of Humanity is a feature-length partially animated documentary project. The film tells the story of a member of the Polish underground who acted as a courier during World War II and whose most prominent mission was to inform the Allied powers of Nazi crimes against the Jews of Europe in an effort to prevent the Holocaust. Read more below.

On May 29 2012, Jan Karski received post mortal Presidential Medal of Freedom awarded by the President Barack Obama.

Newsweek labeled Jan Karski one of the most prominent personalities of the 20th century, and his mission was described as one of the ethical milestones of our civilization. The story of Karski’s mission encapsulated some of the most challenging ethical and historical dilemmas of the Twentieth Century. Jan Karski epitomized the essence of the tragic fate of European Jews but his story was also a lesson about the best and the worst qualities of human nature. The audience will have the opportunity to become acquainted with his story, which defeats all stereotypes and restores faith in humanity at a time of humanity’s utter corruption.

Karski & The Lords of Humanity is a feature-length partially animated documentary project. The film tells the story of a member of the Polish underground who acted as a courier during World War II and whose most prominent mission was to inform the Allied powers of Nazi crimes against the Jews of Europe in an effort to prevent the Holocaust. Jan Karski infiltrated the Warsaw Ghetto and a Transit Camp and carried his dreadful eye-witness report of the atrocities to Britain and the United States, hoping that it would shake the conscience of the powerful leaders or – as Karski would call them – the Lords of Humanity.

Our project offers an earnest portrait of an extraordinary individual and a unique perspective on the history of World War II and the Holocaust. It is a story of a man juggled between life and death while fulfilling a desperate mission to stop the annihilation of European Jews. The movie will portray the biggest tragedy of the 20th century as reflected in the life of a single individual.

The tale of Jan Karski’s wartime activities is much more than the story of one man’s adventures. It is a parable of human folly, urgently relevant to the world we inhabit today. His mission was not a failure. The risks Karski took to witness the Final Solution firsthand and the mind-shattering reports he delivered about it forced Allied leaders to confront the horror for the first time. When Karski broke the taboos of his exiled government and began to speak out about the fate of the Jews, he played a major role in shaping public opinion in the free world.

The innovative fusion of technologies employed by our team will create a unique film reality, and will bring Karski’s compelling story to life. The film will employ fiction-like scenes presented by means of animation techniques intertwined with documentary scenes and archival footage, including authentic voice-over by Jan Karski himself. Thanks to the animation techniques, we will be able to recreate the events, which took place during Karski’s World War II mission. We will be able to recreate his treacherous visit to the Warsaw Ghetto, where he witnessed the indignities and traumas to which Jews were being subjected in Nazi-occupied Poland only months preceding the Final Solution. Hours of interviews recorded with Jan Karski after the war will provide the most authentic first person narrative, and will accompany the animated reenactment of events against the background of authentic archival footage.

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Jan Karski was born in 1914 in Lodz, Poland. Christened Jan Kozielewski, he was raised by his intelligentsia family, which had very patriotic, Polish Catholic roots. The name Karski was one of his military pseudonyms after he joined the Underground Bureau of Information and Propaganda, whose mission was to resist Nazi occupation. During World War II, he became a courier between the resistance movement in Poland and the Government-In-Exile. What turned out to be Karski’s most important mission and one of the most important missions in the history of World War II, took place in the Summer of 1942. He was already in the final stages in preparation for his next trip to meet the representatives of the Polish government in exile, and the British officials. Before his trip he would be approached by the representatives of Jewish organizations from the Warsaw Ghetto, were to request that concrete information about the situation of the Jewish population be carried to the Allies in a plea for help. The Jewish leaders who met with Jan believed that no one in the West would listen to him unless could provide a first hand description of what taking place in the ghetto. Karski needed to see the extermination machine in operation, in person. This was beyond the scope of Karski’s duties as an underground emissary, but he agreed to follow this suggestion.

Following the meeting with the Jewish leaders, Karski was smuggled into the Warsaw Ghetto. What he saw there would haunt him for the rest of his life. If the ghetto experience wasn’t enough, Karski was taken to a sorting camp near the death camp of Belzec. There he saw brutality on a mass scale, becoming a witness to genocide. He had to be physically carried out of the camp, where he experienced a nervous breakdown. The photographic memory, which made Karski a brilliant war courier, became his curse, never allowing him to forget the images he would no longer want to remember.

First reports about what Karski saw reached London in the Summer of 1942. A microfilm containing condensed information in English about the persecution of the Jews reached the government.  It spoke of Himmler’s order to exterminate half of the Jewish population by the end of 1942 and about one million of those Jews who had already perished.

In the Fall of 1942, the Polish Government-in-Exile released Karski’s report to the world press. Many newspapers around the world carried the news, most did not. In the Summer of 1943, Karski decided to make his way to the United States and carry his testimony directly to President Roosevelt. First, a meeting was arranged with Supreme Court justice Felix Frankfurter. After a detailed description of the ghetto and concentration camp, Frankfurter said that he was unable to believe him.

The meeting with Roosevelt was a secret one. Karski was brought into his office through a back door. During the meeting, Karski steered the conversation from the general matters towards death camps and treatment of the Jews. He talked about the Nazis’ plan to ruin the Polish state, but –more specifically – about the systematic plan to destroy the biological substance of the Jewish nation, which would cease to exist without allied intervention. Roosevelt was polite but somewhat evasive. Karski could not tell whether he believed him or not. What was clear was that Roosevelt made no promise of action.

Photograph of Jan Karski courtesy of Carol Harrison

The course of Karski’s mission, including the visits to the Warsaw Ghetto and to the concentration camp, but also his meetings in London and in Washington will be reconstructed by means of advanced animation technologies. This artistic vision combined with authentic archival footage will create a unique film reality, which will bring this compelling story to life. The viewer will be captured by the fiction-like quality of the animated events, while at the same time she or he will be reminded of the authenticity of Jan Karski’s narrative.

Director:
Slawomir Grünberg

Director of Photography:
Slawomir Grünberg

Co-writer:
Slawomir Grünberg
Katka Reszke
Thomas Wood

Co-Editor:
Katka Reszke
Matylda Kawka

Producer:
Dariusz Jablonski
Violetta Kaminska
Izabela Wojcik

Sound Design:
Tomasz Dukszta

Director of Animation:
Tomek Niedzwiedz

Distributed by:
LOGTV, LTD

SCREENINGS

• Russian Documentary Film Festival in New York

PUBLICITY PHOTOS

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