As far as Poland was concerned, she not only had to strive to avert the danger of German revisionism, the realization of which would have made her a vassal of Berlin, but she also had to consider the possibility of Soviet expansion at her expense. This study is, however, primarily concerned with Polish attempts to obtain security with regard to Germany and, in the period in question, this was the main objective of Polish diplomacy.
“A raging question in Poland has become, ‘How long will it take them to communize us completely?’
“To my mind, however, the question is badly framed. I am convinced that human beings cannot be converted to communism if that conversion is attempted while the country concerned is under Communist rule. Under Communist dictatorship the majority become slaves—but men born in freedom, though they may be coerced, can never be convinced. Communism is an evil which is embraced only by fools and idealists not under the actual heel of such rule.
“The question should be phrased: How long can a nation under Communist rule survive the erosion of its soul?”—Stanislaw Mikolajczyk, Preface
Karski was a brilliant young diplomat when war broke out in 1939 with Hitler’s invasion of Poland. Taken prisoner by the Soviet Red Army, which had simultaneously invaded from the East, Karski narrowly escaped the subsequent Katyn Forest Massacre. He became a member of the Polish Underground, the most significant resistance movement in occupied Europe, acting as a liaison and courier between the Underground and the Polish government-in-exile. He was twice smuggled into the Warsaw Ghetto, and entered the Nazi’s Izbica transit camp disguised as a guard, witnessing first-hand the horrors of the Holocaust.
Karski’s courage and testimony, conveyed in a breathtaking manner in Story of a Secret State, offer the narrative of one of the world’s greatest eyewitnesses and an inspiration for all of humanity, emboldening each of us to rise to the challenge of standing up against evil and for human rights. This definitive edition—which includes a foreword by Madeleine Albright, a biographical essay by Yale historian Timothy Snyder, an afterword by Zbigniew Brzezinski, previously unpublished photos, notes, further reading, and a glossary—is an apt legacy for this hero of conscience during the most fraught and fragile moment in modern history.