‘Who Owns Jan Karski? The Controversy Around the Man Who Tried to Stop the Holocaust’

  • Helena Duffy (Speaker)

Activity: OtherPublic engagement, outreach and knowledge exchange - Public Lecture/debate/seminar


It is allegedly in order to honour Jan Karski (1914–2000), who in 1942 and 1943 undertook to inform the Western Allies about the extermination of Jews that was being carried out by the Germans in the occupied Poland, that in 2009 French writer Yannick Haenel published a novel celebrating the Polish hero’s commitment to saving Europe’s Jews. At first favourably received, early in 2010 Jan Karski caused a storm in the French media where the book was attacked by, amongst other, eminent figures such as Claude Lanzmann and Annette Wieviorka; the critics reproached Haenel with having distorted historical reality and misrepresented Karski himself, although the book had been marketed as a work of fiction rather than a biography. The aim of this presentation is therefore to shed some light on the heated debate surrounding Haenel’s controversial take on Karski’s story and, if possible, to evaluate the French writer’s contribution to preserving the legacy of the Polish diplomat and resister and, more broadly, the memory of Holocaust victims. In the course of my talk I will also comment on Wieviorka’s contribution to the study of the ethics of Holocaust testimony and on Lanzmann’s own (mis)representations of Karski and Karski’s homeland in Shoah as well as in the recent sequel to his 1985 monumental documentary, Le Rapport Karski.
Period23 Mar 2017


  • Jan Karski
  • Holocaust
  • Claude Lanzmann
  • Yannick Haenel
  • Anette Wieviorka