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Story of a Secret State

4.37  ·  Rating Details ·  486 Ratings  ·  86 Reviews
In Nazi-occupied Poland, schools, courts and newspapers were operated by the Polish Underground secretly, right under the nose of the Gestapo. The author who was liaison officer between the underground and the exiled Polish government in London, wrote this amazing report right after the liberation.
Paperback, 391 pages
Published November 1st 2001 by Simon Publications (first published 1944)
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Jul 03, 2014 Kinga rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As the resident Pole on Bookmunch I have received this book for reviewing and now I am afraid I won’t do it justice. Going through years of the Polish education system, I didn’t think I wanted or needed to know anything more about World War II, the occupation, the Gestapo or the Holocaust. I was wrong. Jan Karski’s Story of a Secret State should be a compulsory read for everyone. I am not saying this because I am Polish and we like to inform the whole world about our heroic, albeit forgotten dee ...more
Lorenzo Berardi
Jun 09, 2012 Lorenzo Berardi rated it it was amazing
Now, this one was extremely good.
And it's hard to believe how "Story of a Secret State" had to wait for so long before being re-published.

Jan Karski - a nom de plume, pardon d'action - wrote this book with the extreme urgency of a man who has just managed to get through four years of war, starvation, captivity and, on the top of it, a dangerous clandestine patriotic activity.
A brilliant combination, isn't it?

Nevertheless, "Story of a Secret State" is written very well with its author never claim
Isaura Pereira
Esta foi mais uma leitura perturbadora. Esta é uma biografia impressionante. O testemunho de um homem que lutou para a verdade fosse descoberta.

Uma história sobre o amor à pátria, coragem, determinação, o poder político e bravura. Um livro muito político e muito revelador.

Gosto cada vez mais de ler biografias. Recomendo.
'Jan Karski' was not the man's original name. It started out as his nom du guerre, and remained as his name for the rest of his life.

Early in this book, Karski mentions that while retreating at the beginning of the war, he stopped over in what was then known as the village of Oswiecm. Later, of course, it developed much greater notoreity as the nearest town to the camp that later was named Auschwitz.

I first learned of Karski because, as a courier from the Polish Underground to the Polish governm
Bob Petry
May 21, 2012 Bob Petry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an amazing biography. There is enough action, political intrigue, and horror for 3 or 4 movies. An unbelievable true story of a man secretly and abruptly called to war from his world of elite society parties. Captured by the Russians, he escapes by posing as a working-class private right into a German cattle car enroute to a "camp." Escaping from the Gestapo multiple times, Karski finds himself as courier, spy and propagandist in the Polish underground. At one point he even sold bonds fo ...more
Feb 04, 2015 Kriegslok rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I was a child my Grandad used to enthral me with stories from his life. Being young in the early 1970's WWII was still fresh for many. My Grandad had a special sympathy for POland, he's never been to Poland but I remember him frequently referring to the "poor Poles" and how they had struggled, suffered and been betrayed as a nation. I suppose that is where my interest in this complex and historically important player on the European scene started. I think that to many people Poland is "just ...more
Paul Doucette
Sep 15, 2012 Paul Doucette rated it really liked it
Really enjoyed the book. It's written by a professor, sadly now deceased, of mine at Georgetown. Karski has got to be one of the few people smuggled into and out of the Nazi death camps in Poland. He eventually gained a private interview with FDR, giving the President undeniable proof of what the Nazis were doing in the death camps. Sadly the allies did not act on Karski's information.
Elizabeth Moffat
May 10, 2012 Elizabeth Moffat rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the most intriguing and exciting books about World War II, primarily the Polish resistance, that I have read. The bravery and determination of Karski is outstanding, his tale-telling superb, and it made for quite an emotional read.
Nov 23, 2010 Janet rated it really liked it
A fascinating account, published in 1944, of Poland in the Second World War. Author Jan Karski was a handsome young gentleman enjoying life, working on his doctorate in demography, the science and statistics of populations, when Hitler invaded Poland. His amazing transformation from wealthy citizen/student to cavalry officer to spy/saboteur is detailed as the Polish Underground was formed to fight the Nazi presence. Unlike the Russians (See the Gulag Archepelago), the Polish did love freedom eno ...more
Apr 14, 2013 Maria rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Story of a proud Polish patriot who began working for the Polish Underground and helped establish the Polish Government-in-exile during the German occupation of World War II.

He goes from a life of privilege as a 25 year old officer in the Polish army to a life of hiding, subterfuge and at times, exhausting anxiety borne from love of country.

When captured and tortured by the Gestapo: "I had to persist in my story as if it were a magical incantation that would prevent me from blurting out the dama
Rachel Choate
Jan 24, 2012 Rachel Choate rated it it was amazing
I picked up this book while doing a study of resistance to Hitler. This narrative of the Polish underground is phenomenal. I often had to remind myself that it is nonfiction. I was amazed at the amount of detail he was able to print in the midst of the war. Karski's account of the work he and others did to thwart the Nazi occupiers reads like a espionage novel complete with fake passports, double agents, bumbling villains and prison escapes. His writings about the Warsaw ghetto and his visit to ...more
Clara Mazzi
Feb 28, 2014 Clara Mazzi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Polonia. Parola a cui non riesco ad associare nè un paesaggio, nè una forma di cultura o di storia importante. Tranne purtroppo che i campi di sterminio e un vivo antisemitismo. Ho deciso di leggere il libro di Karski perchè invece racconta l'autobiografia di questo uomo che si è dedicato con passione alla Resistenza polacca, al combattere i tedeschi e la loro oppressione e ha portato avanti, tutto da solo, la situazione folle degli ebrei davanti ai grandi del mondo. Un libro interessantissimo, ...more
Pat Stearman
An amazing and sometimes very uncomfortable look at a subject I thought I knew a bit about, but didn't really! The Underground in Poland in WW2. Surprised at how the Poles had a complete government not only in exile as the French did but also in Poland. Schools - another thing I hadn't thought of - what happens to a society after 5 or 10 years of a war in which the children are not educated at all? What happens when an entire generation has been practically starved?
There is a lot about the poli
Mar 16, 2015 Jan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First note, March 6, 2015:
Having reached page 130 of 494 pages in the Dutch edition, which has over 50 pages endnotes and an afterword by Céline Gervais-Francelle, I am already impressed, not only by the story itself, but also by the careful way the author has written his autobiography. And the most adventurous and horrendous parts still have to come.

Overall, March 16, 2015:
The story is about willpower, dedication for the country, motivation, structuring and organizing, adventurous excitement, n
Ronda Emele sherwood
In this day and be It is almost impossible to completely understand the horrific events of WWII. The author had a similar, more dangerous, more frustrating problem making others understand the extent of the crimes against humanity even while it was going on. It was his personal struggle to convey the fact that the Polish Underground was a formidable and patriotic force to be reckoned with and UTILIZED ... But they could not defeat the Germans alone. He had to make sure people knew that the Poles ...more
Catherine Mateo
Jun 23, 2015 Catherine Mateo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well written. Found it educational and helpful in understanding how people coped - or didn't - in the face of profound oppression and seemingly impossible odds. The history of the Polish underground gets far less attention than it deserves.

And the cowardice of much of the world in not responding to extermination camps also needs to be spoken of.

> I asked him if it were feasible to organize so enormous and complicated an apparatus while the German terror raged. My question provoked a shrug:

kirsten johnstone
Incredible first person account of the WW2 invasion and occupation of Poland. Jan Karski worked for the Polish Underground and escaped capture by the Soviets + the Gestapo on separate occasions and finally escaped to England. He met all the Allied leaders to plead with them to believe and act upon his first hand experience of the Warsaw Ghetto and the Belzac Death Camp. Horrific in parts, this man writes a highly readable account of the war from the Polish perspective (which I had not been famil ...more
Oct 05, 2015 Tom rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Like most people here, I learned about the horrors of WWII via a textbook and a teacher who taught from a textbook. Facts, figures and maybe 1 or 2 very brief stories from survivors. As shocking as this was, I always felt that learning history this way puts you though a desensitization process that lacks the human element required to understand in a small way and have deep empathy for the people who went through this.

Jan Karski's book changed that for me. I felt that for the first time I was lea
Aug 09, 2014 Kim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good book. An autobiographical book by Jan Karski, a Polish resistant fighter during WWII. He worked as a courier in the Resistance and saw firsthand and reported on the situation of Poland's Jews. His autobiography is calm, methodical, and not dramatized. Although he certainly got himself into some pretty life-or-death situations, he recounts the events, what led up to them, and how he responded in a measured and restrained way. This book was originally written in 1944 but has only recently bee ...more
Apr 10, 2012 Nigel rated it it was amazing
What a man, what a time to be such a man, and thank God for such men
Apr 28, 2014 Jason rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-military
I will never tell another polack joke again. The Polish are some of the bravest people on the planet. When Europe was falling in the early 40's the Polish, already defeated in 39', had created a complete government, hidden and ready to rise from the ashes.(The context of the book was written before the end of the war so Karski did not know what would befall Poland via the USSR) The courage of the Polish Jews, facing extinction, make a last attempt to get the world to pay attention to what they b ...more
Ana Raquel
Sep 29, 2015 Ana Raquel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Este livro, retrata na primeira pessoa o que foi viver o Holocausto!
Digo-vos, que é deveras impressionante ler na primeira pessoa, os maus tratos físicos e psicológicos que os nazis fizeram durante a segunda grande guerra.

Um dos aspectos que esta narrativa fez-me refletir, foi a de que durante a segunda grande guerra, a sociedade era comunitária, isto é, tinha um senso de sacrifício muito grande em prol de um objetivo (para a comunidade), isto de ambas as partes, quer para os Nazistas, quer para
Patrick Neylan
Dec 28, 2014 Patrick Neylan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Patrick by: Amazon Vine
For all the praise it's received, Story Of A Secret State isn't an action-packed read. Karski was more of an administrator in the Polish underground than a fighter, so anyone looking for stories about raids, sabotage and armed resistance might be a little disappointed. Also, the book is a reprint of what he wrote in 1943-44, so it lacks the perspective that comes from our fuller knowledge of events that only came to light after the war. Most obviously, he only has the haziest notion of how fortu ...more
Sep 01, 2011 Aspho rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The release of Story of a Secret State by Jan Karski has been accompanied by a great deal of press both in the U.K. and in the rest of Europe. Having read a two-page article about this book on the Italian newspaper’s La Repubblica, I decided to request it from Amazon Vine.

Originally released in the 1940s, Story of a Secret State is an account of Jan K’s life as a member of the Polish Underground. I am fairly ignorant about the situation of Poland during the Nazi occupation; I was therefore very
Jan 19, 2013 Diane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I won this advance copy as a give away from Goodreads.

This is a eyewitness account by one person to what was happening during the Nazi and Russian invasion into Poland. Karski gives us a written detail of the horrors the Polish people went through and how the Nazi's where out to completely remove the Jewish people from the earth.

We meet Karski a young Polish boy who thought he had the world going for him. One day he is flirting at a dance and the next thing he know his world is turned up side do
Irving Koppel
Mar 30, 2010 Irving Koppel rated it it was amazing

Although it reads like a novel,"Story of a Secret State" is the true
account of the adventures of a member of the Polish underground during
World War II. Mr.Karski, who came from a prominent Polish family, had
fought the Germans as a member of the Polish cavalry. Since Poland had
been invaded by the Russians as well as the Germans,he ended up as a prisoner of the former. After his escape from the Russians, he joined
the underground,only to be captured by the nazis. As a result of
a terrible beating
Scot McAtee
Mar 17, 2013 Scot McAtee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
Although I really liked hearing a story about WWII from a viewpoint I don't think I've ever heard before, it was not quite as shocking as what I expected. Karski was definitely a hero and the kind that I like to read about: an ordinary man in extraordinary circumstances. I think he maybe downplayed his part in several sections of the book to the detriment of the book, but there's no telling where it was before editors, translators and whoever else got their hands on his report.

Readers should be
Roderick Hart
Jun 17, 2011 Roderick Hart rated it it was amazing
These are the memoirs of a Polish officer during World War 11. Captured by the Soviets then exchanged into the custody of the Germans, he escapes from a train taking him to a labour camp or worse and makes his way to Warsaw where he is recruited into the Underground.

At first he works as a courier, conveying information from the Underground to the Polish Government in Exile, then in France. Since this involves travelling through several occupied countries with forged papers it is risky and eventu
I was very lucky to win this book through Goodreads, and I'm always pleased to read and review them, even if it takes me a long time to finish them.

The book is the memoir by Jan Kozielewski, who was a Polish army officer who during World War II, became a member of the Polish Underground, with the code name Jan Karski. Kozielweski/Karski eventually becoming a spokesperson for the Polish people in the United States during the final years of World War II. This book is a reprint of his memoir, orig
Dec 30, 2012 Iceman rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Agosto de 1939, Jan Karski, jovem recem licenciado, recebe uma ordem de mobilização para o exercito polaco. Nada impressionado, pois era opinião que os alemães não fariam nada de mal à Polónia face à ameaça francesa e britânica, Jan Karski responde a essa ordem dirigindo-se para a estação e é aí que se depara com milhares de homens na gare e percebe que algo de grave se está a passar.

A partir desse dia, Jan Karski encetará um percurso sinuoso que o levará a tomar contacto com as atrocidades da g
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Jan Karski (born Jan Kozielewski) was a Polish World War II resistance movement fighter and later professor at Georgetown University. In 1942 and 1943 Karski reported to the Polish government in exile and the Western Allies on the situation in German-occupied Poland, especially the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto, and the secretive German-Nazi extermination camps.
After the war Karski entered the
More about Jan Karski...

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“My dear girl,' I answered in high spirits, for I felt elated at being active again. 'You are about to witness the birth of an immortal literary masterpiece. In a few moments, I shall begin the composition of an eloquent letter. This letter is going to be received by everyone in the Reich who has a Polish name. Or at least that is what shall try to accomplish. We want to remidn everyone of Polish origin that, although they are nominally German, Polish blood continues to flow in their veins.'
Danuta interrupted my oratory.
'Calm down, Witold. Don't excite yourself so. If you raise your voice much louder you shan't have to send any letters. Everybody in the Third Reich will have heard you, including the Gestapo.”
“The photographer was installed in the back of an inconspicurous dry-goods store in the poorer neighbourhood of Warsaw. He seemed to know all about me. His job was to prepare a picture of me which resembled me sufficiently to be claimed as mine, but in which the features were so vague that I could disown it if the need should arise.
He was a bold, spry little man who hardly replied to my few remarks. His deliberate taciturnity was not lost on me and I remained quiet while he concentrated on the task of turning out what proved to be a miniature masterpiece of photographic ambiguity. When it was finished he handed it to me with a pleased smile. I glanced at it and marveled aloud at his skill.
'It's incredible,' I said. 'It makes me feel as though I had met myself before but can't quite remember where.”
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