The “Humanity 101” series returns to Oak Park, Illinois, in October, focusing on “Exploring Our Humanity” and headlining with a powerful exhibition on Polish Holocaust hero Jan Karski. “The World Knew: Jan Karski’s Mission for Humanity” is a 22-panel traveling exhibition about Karski’s courageous life and World War II legacy, which comes to Oak Park through the support and sponsorship the Polish American Librarians Association.
The exhibition will be on display from September 29 through October 14 at the Main Library. The tour of “The World Knew: Jan Karski’s Mission for Humanity” traveling exhibition is organized by the Jan Karski Educational Foundation. The exhibition was created by the Polish History Museum in Warsaw with major support from the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Additional funding was provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities.*
On Thursday, October 1, from 6:30 to 8:30 pm, everyone is invited to the Main Library to celebrate the exhibit’s opening reception and hear featured speakers Leonard Kniffel, executive director of the Polish American Librarians Association, and Bozena Nowicka McLees, director of Interdisciplinary Polish Studies at Loyola University Chicago and board member of the Jan Karski Educational Foundation.
Kniffel is a Polish-American librarian and journalist (editor and publisher until 2011 of American Libraries, the magazine of the American Library Association). He is the author of three books, including A Polish Son in the Motherland: An American’s Journey Home, and he blogs at PolishSon.com.
Nowicka McLees co-founded the Jan Karski Educational Foundation in Chicago and its sister organization Fundacja Edukacyjna Jana Karskiego in Warsaw in 2012.
“Fostering tolerance and understanding, and supporting learning through legacy are ideals we wholeheartedly support,” said Cyndee Landrum, Assistant Director of Public Services, Oak Park Public Library. “We are honored to host this exhibit and speakers Kniffel and Nowicka McLees. We also want to extend a special thank you to Elizabeth Marszalik, a library manager and active PALA member whose relationships brought this exhibit and speakers to Oak Park,” Landrum added.
“Jan Karski is the consummate example of Polish resistance during World War II and the Holocaust,” said Marszalik. “This beautifully mounted and moving exhibit serves as a reminder that those who refuse to learn from the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them.”
“The World Knew” debuted in January 2013 at the United Nations for Holocaust Remembrance Week and has since appeared in multiple language versions in Israel, Canada, at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the Polish Museum of America, the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, the European Parliament in Brussels, and elsewhere. Karski was a Pole by birth, a naturalized American, and an honorary citizen of Israel.
More Holocaust-related events
- Wednesday, October 7, 7 pm – “Rising From the Ashes: The Rebuilding of Warsaw in the Wake of the Holocaust” with writer and preservationist Margaret Guzek. Discuss events leading up to the destruction of Warsaw and the Polish community’s meticulous postwar reconstruction, which includes the recognition of Warsaw’s restoration of its historic quarters as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Wednesday, October 21, 1 pm – Community book discussion of Story of a Secret State: My Report to the World by Jan Karski. The book documents Karski’s experiences in the Polish Underground and serves as a remarkable testimony of one man’s courage and a nation’s struggle for resistance against overwhelming oppression.
All of the library’s Humanity 101 events are free and open to everyone and will take place at the Main Library, 834 Lake St., Oak Park, IL. On-site, two-hour free parking and elevator access from the garage to the lobby are available during open hours, which are 9 am to 9 pm Mondays through Thursdays, 9 am to 6 pm Fridays, 9 am to 5 pm Saturdays, and 1 pm to 6 pm Sundays. Additional Humanity 101 events include:
- Tuesday, September 29, 1 pm – Schindler’s List screening and discussion. Oak Park film historian Doug Deuchler about the film, winner of seven Oscar awards including Best Picture, that follows the true story of Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson), who saved more than 1,100 Jewish people during the Holocaust.
- Wednesday, October 14, 7 pm – “The Science of Happiness” with Chet Taranowski, PhD. The adjunct faculty member at the University of Southern California’s School of Social Work and President of the Friends of the Oak Park Public Library explores research-based strategies for improving both societal and individual happiness.
- Saturday, October 17, 1 pm – Small Island screening and discussion. Based on the award-winning novel by Andrea Levy, Small Island tells the story of Windrush Generation immigrants who migrated from Jamaica to England in the years immediately following World War II.
- Thursday, October 29, 7 pm – “Life in a Japanese-American Internment Camp” with Sarah Okner. A historian, librarian, and descendant of internees, Okner shares photos and details of daily life in an internment camp, as well as the profound effects it had on those living there.
- Sunday, November 8, 2 pm – Bonnie Jo Campbell, author of Mothers, Tell Your Daughters. Meet Bonnie Jo Campbell, the National Book Award finalist and author of Once Upon a River, who will share stories from her collection featuring ferocious mothers and scrappy daughters.
About the Polish American Librarians Association
The mission of the Polish American Librarians Association is to positively impact services provided to library patrons of Polish descent and individuals interested in Polish culture. Learn more about PALA.
About the Jan Karski Educational Foundation
The mission of the Jan Karski Educational Foundation is to instill in people—especially youth—the values of leadership, courage, and integrity, as exemplified by the life of Jan Karski. Learn more about the Jan Karski Educational Foundation.
About Humanity 101
Humanity 101, first introduced as a library programming series in October 2014, was originally developed through Project Humanities. Learn more about Humanity 101.
Jodi Kolo, Manager of Communication Services
Oak Park Public Library
Elizabeth Marszalik, Manager of Material Services
Oak Park Public Library
Leonard Kniffel, Executive Director
Polish American Librarians Association