Why the Words "Polish Death Camps" Cut So Deep

01 Jun 2012 11:57 AM | Anonymous

Why the Words "Polish Death Camps" Cut So Deep


A presidential faux pas mangles World War II history and insults Poland


About Those Death Camps in Poland


Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s statement on the words of United States President Barack Obama


President Obama Apologizes to President Komorowski


ADL Welcomes White House's Recognition of Error


Obama's Misstep on Poland, and a History Lesson



Dear Mr. President,

In your speech at the ceremony of presenting the posthumous decoration for Jan Karski to Prof. A. Rotfeld, you used the phrase "Polish death camps". I am sure that this was slip of the tongue and that you know that death camps on occupied Polish soil were created and run by Nazi Germans. Poles are particularly sensitive to this fact, since the word "Polish" in this context implies that Poles were the perpetrators of a heinous war crime and, unfortunately, perpetuates this erroneous misinformation among those who do not know history, creating an unjustly anti-Polish climate. In fact. Poles were themselves, alongside with Jews and other nations, victims of these camps. In recent years Poles worldwide have tried, wherever they saw this unfortunate phrase, to correct it, because, Poles living in Poland, the US, Canada and elsewhere feel particularly and unjustly wronged by its implications.
Mr. President, I am sure that you did not intend any harm and used a phrase, which, unfortunately, has made its way into everyday media language. However, I feel that it would do the world of good for you and do justice to history if you publicly corrected yourself on this issue. In fact, your speaking out on this matter, setting the historical record straight, would greatly enhance your popularity with Polish Americans in the upcoming elections.
Yours very sincerely,
Witold Liliental, Ph.D.


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