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Warsaw, Poland - Obama Says He Regrets 'Polish Death Camp' Gaffe

Published on: June 1, 2012 08:17 AM
By: AP
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Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski holds a copy of U.S. President Barack Obama's letter, as he leaves a press conference in Warsaw, Poland, Friday, June 1, 2012. Obama has written a letter to Komorowski expressing "regret" for an inadvertent verbal gaffe that caused a storm controversy in Poland this week, after the U.S. President used the expression "Polish death camp" , rather than "Nazi death camp in German occupied Poland, while honoring a Polish WW II hero. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz)  Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski holds a copy of U.S. President Barack Obama's letter, as he leaves a press conference in Warsaw, Poland, Friday, June 1, 2012. Obama has written a letter to Komorowski expressing "regret" for an inadvertent verbal gaffe that caused a storm controversy in Poland this week, after the U.S. President used the expression "Polish death camp" , rather than "Nazi death camp in German occupied Poland, while honoring a Polish WW II hero. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz) 

Warsaw, Poland - President Barack Obama has written a letter to the Polish president expressing “regret” for an inadvertent verbal gaffe that caused a storm of controversy in Poland this week.

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Obama on Tuesday used the expression “a Polish death camp” while honoring a Polish World War II resistance hero rather than wording that would have made clear that he meant a death camp that Nazi Germany operated on Polish soil during its wartime occupation of Poland.

Warsaw has been waging a campaign for years against phrases such as “Polish death camps” or “Polish concentration camps” to refer to Auschwitz, Treblinka and other German killing sites. The language deeply offends Polish sensitivities because Poles not only had no role in running camps such as Auschwitz, but were considered racially inferior by the Germans and were themselves murdered in them in huge numbers.

“In referring to ‘a Polish death camp’ rather than ‘a Nazi death camp in German-occupied Poland,’ I inadvertently used a phrase that has caused many Poles anguish over the years and that Poland has rightly campaigned to eliminate from public discourse around the world,” Obama wrote. “I regret the error and agree that this moment is an opportunity to ensure that this and future generations know the truth.”

Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski made the letter, dated Thursday, available to journalists in Warsaw on Friday, expressing satisfaction at Obama’s words.

Komorowski called Obama’s letter “a very important moment in the battle for historical truth.”

Obama made the verbal slip-up while posthumously awarding the Medal of Freedom to Jan Karski, a resistance fighter who struggled to tell the outside world about the murder of Jews in his country. He smuggled himself into the Warsaw Ghetto and a death camp, witnessing the atrocities committed against the Jews firsthand. He then took that information to President Franklin Roosevelt, imploring the world to act.

Karski later became a professor at Georgetown University and died in 2000.


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Read Comments (14)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Jun 01, 2012 at 11:50 AM HaNavon Says:

There were over a million Jews killed by poles during and after WWII having nothing to do with Nazism.

2

 Jun 01, 2012 at 12:54 PM victorg Says:

I don't understand - should we also apologize to the Germans for calling them German death camps and not Nazi Death Camps?

They were death camps in Poland (and sanctioned by most of the Poles) thus the name Polish Death Camps!

3

 Jun 01, 2012 at 01:16 PM JackC Says:

Reply to #1  
HaNavon Says:

There were over a million Jews killed by poles during and after WWII having nothing to do with Nazism.

Indeed, he spoke truer than he knew.

4

 Jun 01, 2012 at 02:48 PM volfie Says:

#1 - what are your sources for that misinformation ?
#2- How do you know they were sanctioned by "most poles" ?

In this era where poland is an ally of israel and in some small ways attempting to
establish better relations with jews - exaggerated misinformation only serves
the interests of the overt anti-semites.

i bet you never were in poland or read anything about these issues -just a knee-jerk reaction !

5

 Jun 01, 2012 at 02:51 PM qazxc Says:

No excuse for this apology. Like apologizing for say fish swim, birds fly and bears live in the woods.

6

 Jun 01, 2012 at 03:40 PM 5TResident Says:

The Germans set up the camps but you can bet your life that the majority of Poles were very much in favor of seeing Jews go up in smoke. Until the day she died, my mother a"h, who was an Auschwitz survivor, believed that Poles are bigger anti-Semites than the Germans ever were.

7

 Jun 01, 2012 at 06:16 PM Granny Says:

I would like everyone to stop using the word Nazi when they should say German. Do we say the Democrats led the D-Day landing at Normandy? In waht other conflict do we refer to the political party instead of the regime that was supported by the people. Make no mistake about it - the Nazis were the ruling power in Germany because they were democratically elected and the people wanted them. This use of the word nazi detracts from the collective guilt of all the German people, yimach shimom. Maybe that's why so many Jews who should know better buy cars and other goods made in Germany. Would you buy a Mercedes if it was made by amalek?

8

 Jun 01, 2012 at 06:24 PM takeittothem Says:

True, the Poles did not create the death camps, but, notwithstanding the 6,000 Righteous Gentiles of that nation, that number is a mere pittance to its 21 million inhabitants prior to the war.
And, it is a well-known fact, that the Nazis built the most infamous death camps in Poland, knowing it was one of the most anti-Semitic countries in Europe, who would object the least to their creation.

9

 Jun 02, 2012 at 09:48 PM volfie Says:

# 8 - i by no means want to come off as an advocate for poland during the war era, but knowing the facts is essential to having a complete understanding ...Auschwitz was a military barracks way before the war started and was suitable as a camp.also, if you would look at a map of the region you would see that poland was the best location to transport jews since it was in the center of east europe for the nazis purpose of destroying the jews. also poland had 3 million jews. ! poland was also adjacent to germany.having studied, taught, and travelled in this region- believe me the hungarians, roumanians,and others would have welcomed the slaughter of jews in their land.- study what the lithuanians did ! geograhically poland was central. location , location , location.(unfortunatley).

10

 Jun 02, 2012 at 11:30 PM ShmuelG Says:

Reply to #9  
volfie Says:

# 8 - i by no means want to come off as an advocate for poland during the war era, but knowing the facts is essential to having a complete understanding ...Auschwitz was a military barracks way before the war started and was suitable as a camp.also, if you would look at a map of the region you would see that poland was the best location to transport jews since it was in the center of east europe for the nazis purpose of destroying the jews. also poland had 3 million jews. ! poland was also adjacent to germany.having studied, taught, and travelled in this region- believe me the hungarians, roumanians,and others would have welcomed the slaughter of jews in their land.- study what the lithuanians did ! geograhically poland was central. location , location , location.(unfortunatley).

Whereas it is true that Poland is better located that Hungary or Lithuania for transporting East European Jews, it was too far from France, Holland, and, eventually, Italy. Also, Germans did hope to conquer England and take over Franco's Spain, which makes my argument even stronger: logistically it would make sense to build at least 1 or 2 death camps in France (Alsace-Lorraine?), but the Germans never attempted to do so, yet they built ALL their death camps in Poland. Not just Auschwitz, all of them. It is difficult not to accept that Germans knew that beastly, Jewish-blood-lusting Poles would be much more hospitable to such unspeakable evil much more cooperative in the building and running it than much more benignly antisemitic French.

11

 Jun 03, 2012 at 02:18 AM frater Says:

Reply to #10  
ShmuelG Says:

Whereas it is true that Poland is better located that Hungary or Lithuania for transporting East European Jews, it was too far from France, Holland, and, eventually, Italy. Also, Germans did hope to conquer England and take over Franco's Spain, which makes my argument even stronger: logistically it would make sense to build at least 1 or 2 death camps in France (Alsace-Lorraine?), but the Germans never attempted to do so, yet they built ALL their death camps in Poland. Not just Auschwitz, all of them. It is difficult not to accept that Germans knew that beastly, Jewish-blood-lusting Poles would be much more hospitable to such unspeakable evil much more cooperative in the building and running it than much more benignly antisemitic French.

And what do you have in mind by saying that Poles were "cooperative in the building and running" the camps?

12

 Jun 03, 2012 at 07:01 AM savtat Says:

I heard from a survivor that AFTER the war, the underground Polish army shot her mother in front of her eyes!!!! It was very dangerous to travel anywhere in Poland after the war because Jews were not wanted back in their homes and on their property. My parents were both from Warsaw and NEVER wanted anyone in our family to step foot on Polish soil.

Hashem yikom damom.

13

 Jun 03, 2012 at 10:13 AM qazxc Says:

Stop blaming the Poles. It isn't their fault any more than cats are to blame for chasing mice. It is in their nature.

Birds fly, fish swim, Poles hate Jews and bears live in the woods.

14

 Jun 04, 2012 at 06:15 PM ShmuelG Says:

Reply to #13  
qazxc Says:

Stop blaming the Poles. It isn't their fault any more than cats are to blame for chasing mice. It is in their nature.

Birds fly, fish swim, Poles hate Jews and bears live in the woods.

Yeah, I sometimes feel that way too. But it doesn't wash. Poles are sentient moral beings, even if lowly. You can't absolve these beastly men of any responsibility like you would beasts mammash.

15

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