WASHINGTON (JTA) — Jan Karski, an officer of the Polish Underground during World War II, will posthumously receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
President Obama announced his decision while touring the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum on Monday. The medal is the highest civilian honor in the United States.
Karski was among the first to provide eyewitness accounts of Nazi Germany’s murder of the Jews.
Karski, who died in 2000, published "Story of a Secret State" and earned a doctorate from Georgetown University. He later became a professor at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service.
In his speech at the Holocaust museum, Obama noted the importance of highlighting the stories of those that worked to save the Jews from the Holocaust.
“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," the statement said. "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."