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K-State Today

October 2, 2013

Holocaust exhibit arrives at Hale

Submitted by Patrice Scott

Jan Karski exhibit

For the second time this year, an exhibit from the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in Chicago will be on display at K-State. Its official opening will coincide with a performance of a Holocaust-inspired play.

"The World Knew: Jan Karski’s Mission for Humanity" will be on display on the second floor of Hale Library during the month of October. Vice Consul Konrad Zieliński will take part in the official opening ceremony at 4 p.m. Friday, Oct. 11. The public is invited to attend.

The 20-panel exhibit, which was recently on display at the United Nations in New York, is dedicated to Karski who was a diplomat, Polish WWII resistance fighter and eyewitness to the German Nazi atrocities in the death camps. He single-handedly tried to stop the Holocaust by reporting to the West asking the Allies to take action while there was still time to save millions of lives. Through Karski, the Underground Polish State implored the West to take action and save Jewish citizens of the Republic of Poland, who were being exterminated in German concentration camps in occupied Poland. President Obama awarded Karski with the Medal of Freedom posthumously in May 2012.

The exhibit was created by the Polish History Museum in Warsaw and was made available by Poland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Jan Karski Educational Foundation.

The College of Education, K-State Libraries, the School of Leadership Studies and the Kansas Polish American Congress coordinated campus efforts for this educational exhibit. Susan Yelich Biniecki, assistant professor in the College of Education’s department of educational leadership, spearheaded this effort.

"Holocaust education is critical so that not one generation goes by without understanding this atrocity," Yelich Biniecki said. "Through the life of Jan Karski, this exhibit demonstrates the importance of social justice and the seemingly ever-present need to address inequality and human rights abuses."

Lori Goetsch, dean of K-State Libraries, and Debbie Mercer, dean of the College of Education, greatly appreciate the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland’s interest in K-State and continued sponsorship and involvement on campus. Both are especially grateful to collaborate on another meaningful exhibit.

The exhibit’s formal opening ceremony will coincide with a performance of "Life in a Jar" at 2 p.m. Oct. 11 in the Little Theatre at the K-State Student Union. The play is based on the life of another unsung hero during the Holocaust, Irena Sendler.

Sendler, through an underground network, saved the lives of 2,500 children from possible death by smuggling them out of the Warsaw Ghetto. Her work may have been lost to the ages if not for Norm Conard, a teacher in Uniontown, Kan., and four of his students.

Conard developed a project-based learning assignment about the Holocaust. His students read one sentence about Sendler in a national magazine and were intrigued, but virtually no other information existed about her work. They wrote "Life in a Jar," titled after the fact Sendler hid the names of the children she’d smuggled in jars buried in her yard. Their work ultimately inspired a book, a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie and Sendler’s nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.

The College of Education produced a video about Irena Sendler titled "The Irena Sendler Project Documentary: Life in a Jar," which can be viewed at online.