Anger Over Obama’s ‘Polish Death Camp’ Remark
June 29, 2012
President Bronisław Komorowski has welcomed a letter from Barack Obama in which the U.S. president says he regrets using the term “Polish death camp” in reference to the Holocaust, a slip-up that caused widespread anger in Poland. Some senior Polish politicians, however, have said that Obama should have apologized more emphatically and in person rather than in a letter.
Poles were left fuming at Obama’s comments May 30 while he was awarding a posthumous medal to a World War II courier for the Polish resistance movement who alerted the world to the Nazi Holocaust.
Obama’s slip-up came as he awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s top civilian honor, to Jan Karski, a Pole who in 1942 raised the alarm about the mass murder of Jews in German Nazi-run death camps in occupied Poland.
Karski died in 2000.
Describing his bravery, Obama said resistance fighters had smuggled Karski into the Warsaw Ghetto and a “Polish death camp” so he could report on what he saw to the outside world.
Karski’s eyewitness reports to U.S. President F. D. Roosevelt and top British officials failed to persuade the Allies to intervene and stop the Holocaust.
The Polish government has a reputation for reacting sharply to statements which could be taken to mean that Poland bore responsibility for the mass murder of Jews by German Nazis in the 1940s.