Actor David Strathairn Reflects on Jan Karski’s Heroism

In London, the play “Remember This,” highlights the story of Jan Karski. He was a Polish courier in the Resistance who risked his life to witness crimes against humanity committed by the Nazis in World War II – and to warn the West’s most powerful leaders. Actor David Strathairn plays Karski and joins the program to discuss his role.

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CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: I can’t imagine at a better time, not just because of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, but also because of the world we live in for you to be playing this one man, playing and portraying this amazing man. Well, what made you take it on?

DAVID STRATHAIRN, ACTOR: Well, I’d have to say that he is one of these people whose life was exemplary in so many ways, and particularly in public service, as a man who has borne witness to some of the most horrific events in history, and he has been for most of his life, the last 40 years of his life, he was unknown. And the goal of the Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics that generated this project out of Georgetown University under the auspices of Derek Goldman, and Cynthia Schneider. Their goal is to put a human face on global politics and that’s kind of a generalized statement, but it’s — the nuts and bolts of it is to put people in a room from widely diverse beliefs, political postures, cultural identities, and have them reckon with, recognize and have reflected to them these issues that impact millions of lives today. And that’s why Jan Karski is so relevant and that’s why we’ve chosen to, through their School of Foreign Service out of Georgetown, present this piece because I believe he lays down a gauntlet by his extraordinary life for all of us to move forward bearing witness and telling the truth and —

AMANPOUR: Well, a witness is just so crucial and central to this and we’ll get into the unbelievable superhuman courage he showed to bear witness onto the Warsaw ghetto, and then will — but I want to just play a sound, a little bit of a clip from the play to just show what’s at stake.


STRATHAIRN: We walk again in the streets. We do not talk to anybody. We walk for probably one hour. Sometimes he tells me, look at this Jew. A man standing, not moving. Is he dead? No, Mr. Vitold, he is alive, but remember he is dying. He is dying. Look at him. Tell over there in London and the United States that you saw. Don’t forget. We walk again, only from time to time, he whispers. Remember this. Remember this. Remember this.

About This Episode EXPAND

Former New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram argues that there is damning new evidence about Trump’s phone call with the President of Ukraine which should be admitted into the Senate impeachment trial. Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer talks impeachment, climate and campaign spending. Actor David Strathairn discusses his role in the play “Remember This: The Lesson of Jan Karski.”