ADL Welcomes White House Recognition of Obama Blunder

June 1, 2012  

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on Wednesday welcomed a statement from the White House expressing regret for President Obama’s description of the Nazi death camps in Poland as “Polish camps” in honoring Jan Karski with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.           

“We commend the White House for appropriately recognizing their error in describing the Nazi death camps in Poland as “Polish camps” and immediately expressing regret for the mistake,“ said Abraham H. Foxman, National Director of the ADL and Holocaust survivor, in a statement.

“This is a perennial problem, and the president’s unwitting mistake only highlights the need for ongoing education about the history of World War II and the Holocaust,” he said.

The President’s blunder in referring to “Polish camps,” which implies that the death camps were built and operated by Poland, rather than the Nazi regime, unleashed a wave of searing denunciations from the inculpated country.

The ADL said that while the White House acknowledged that the President misspoke, the Administration “should turn this mistake into a teachable moment for American public and explain more fully why the expression ‘Polish death camps’ offends our strong ally, Poland, and distorts the history of the Holocaust.” 

“By doing so, the White House will do more than rectify a mistake; it will strengthen the relationship of trust with Poland and promote Holocaust education,” the ADL added.   

“As an agency that prioritizes remembrance of the Holocaust, ADL has frequently spoken out on this topic and has expressed fully support for the efforts of the government of Poland to ensure that the official names of the death camps in Poland emphasize that the camps were built and operated by Nazi Germany,” the statement said.  

In 2006, ADL wrote to UNESCO to ensure that the official name of the Auschwitz, as recorded on UNESCO’s world heritage site registry, emphasizes that the camp was built and operated by Nazi Germany.

However, it should be remembered that the Poles cooperated fully, except for a very few exceptions, with the genocide of the Jews, stealing their valuables and turning them in to the Nazis.  In Lantzman’s epic movie on the Holocaust, a Poliish peasant living right next to Auschwitz is asked if the wholesale murders bothered him during the war period. “If your finger is cut, does it hurt me?” he answers, knowing he is being filmed.

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