Story of a Secret State

  • by Jan Karski
  • Narrated by Janusz Guttner
  • 18 hrs and 19 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

I do not pretend to have given an exhaustive picture of the Polish Underground, its organization and its activities. Because of our methods, I believe that there is no one today who could give an all-embracing recital...This book is a purely personal story, my story.
Jan Karski's Second World War memoir is a heroic act of witness: the courageous testimony of a man who risked everything for his country. First published in 1944, the book became an instant bestseller in the US while the war still raged in Europe. At times overwhelming in the details it reveals of the suffering of ordinary people, it is an unforgettable and deeply affecting record of brutality, courage, and survival under conditions of extreme bleakness.
During the first four years of World War II, Karski worked as a messenger for the underground, risking his life in secret missions. He was captured, tortured, rescued, smuggled through a tunnel into the Warsaw ghetto and, finally, disguised himself as a guard to infiltrate a Nazi death camp. Then, travelling across occupied Europe to England, with his eye-witness report smuggled on microfilm in the handle of a razor, he became the first man to tell the Allies about the Holocaust - only to be ignored.


What the Critics Say

"His account of his missions is an electrifying tale of false identities, near captures, spies and secret film capsules ... in human terms, Karski's account is invaluable." (Daily Telegraph)
"It deserves its status as a Penguin Classic, not only because it is a great historic document, but also because it's a cracking good read: Karski's adventures are worthy of the wildest spy thriller." (Nigel Jones, Telegraph)
"The bravery of the man who risked all to tell the world about the Holocaust is truly staggering ... an extraordinary testament to Man's inhumanity to Man, and the even more remarkable courage required to resist it." (Ben McIntyre, The Times)
"Story of a Secret State is now viewed as a classic insider's account of the Resistance in occupied Europe...After all the harrowing descriptions of Holocaust horrors there have been over the years from survivors of Auschwitz, Belsen, and Ravensbruck, Karski's vivid account of what he saw back in 1942 is still deeply moving. We feel his shock and incredulity that this could really be happening in 20th century 'civilised' Europe." (Tony Rennell, Daily Mail)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

the accent lets it down

Do not get me wrong this book is so interesting - given the subject I cannot say enjoyable -and I would recommend it to everyone. It is let down though by the narrator with his heavy accent. Okay I know it was written by a Pole but does it have to be read with this accent. The first part of the story, where things move slower I dropped off a couple of times because of his almost hypnotic slow reading. Later it the book that is no problem but you are left with his mispronunication. Sometimes I just wondered what on earth he had said. Apart from that, the book gives a clear and awful view of what Poland and the underground, and the Jews from that country went through. When he describes visiting one death camp I was crying and had to stop reading for a while. Having visited several concentration camps I thought I had an idea about the fate of these poor people but the description of the train from that camp stays in my mind.
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- Margaret

Courage beyond Calling

Would you consider the audio edition of Story of a Secret State to be better than the print version?

Couldn't comment as haven't read print version.

What did you like best about this story?

Jan Karski himself. Sounded such a brave and noble man.

What about Janusz Guttner’s performance did you like?

Yes it was as if Jan Karski was himself telling the story to you in a conversation.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

His visit to the Warsaw Ghetto and the concentration camp. His visit to his sister and the fate of the liaison women.

Any additional comments?

This is a remarkable story by a remarkable man. It really should be read.

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- Purplelotus

Book Details

  • Release Date: 24-06-2011
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd