Open main menu

Wikiquote β

"Polish death camp" controversy

term in reference to concentration camps built and run by Nazi Germany in Poland
Death camps in "Poland"

The "Polish death camp" controversy is a dispute over whether it is inappropriate to refer to Nazi German concentration camps located in Poland as "Polish", because it could be construed as referring to something attributed to Polish people as well as referring to something located in German occupied Poland.


Quotes are arranged chronologically.

  • Nie dziesiątki tysięcy i nie setki tysięcy, ale miliony istnień człowieczych uległy przeróbce na surowiec i towar w polskich obozach śmierci.
    • Zofia Nałkowska. Medaliony. Dorośli i dzieci w Oświęcimiu. 1946
  • Like many people of Polish origin I get very irritated when lazy journalists describe the notorious death camps in Poland, such as Auschwitz or Treblinka, as simply "Polish". he lazy unfeeling bastards! These camps are no more "Polish" than Hadrian's Wall is British just because it is in Britain. Do British POWs who survived those horrific camps in Burma describe them as "Burmese"? No brainer. Of course not. They are righfully described as "Japanese". And exactly for that reason camps like Auschwitz should be descibed as "German" or "German Nazi". Certainly not "Polish".
  • Poles outraged by Obama’s reference to ‘Polish death camp’.
    • Abdon M. Pallasch in Chicago Sun-Times. May 30, 2012 (online)
    • Comment: Barack Obama had used the term "Polish death camp" during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, May 29, 2012.
  • On May 28 of last year, President Obama stood next to Prime Minister Donald Tusk of Poland in Warsaw and declared he would support new rules to help more Poles get tourist visas to the United States. “If you’ve lived in Chicago and you haven’t become a little bit Polish,” Mr. Obama joked, “there’s something wrong with you.”

    A year later, the president made himself the target of a searing denunciation by Mr. Tusk after he referred on Tuesday to a “Polish death camp,” instead of a Nazi death camp in Poland, in bestowing a Presidential Medal of Freedom on Jan Karski, a hero of the Polish resistance to the Germans during World War II. Mr. Obama was guilty of “ignorance, lack of knowledge, bad intentions,” Mr. Tusk said.

  • This is not the first time when such unfortunate phrase regarding the concentration camps built on the Polish soil by the Nazi regime has been used. According to the data published by the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in the last three years almost 200 succesfull interventions have been made, in response to untrue expressions appearing in the media around the world. Using phrases such as a “Polish concentration camp” may be prosecuted by Polish courts even outside of the Polish borders. The first such trial is to be held on September 13 against the German publishing company Axel Springer.
  • “Polish concentration camps” is an unfortunate mental leap that may mess with the historically ignorant foreigner, but for a person who is not historically illiterate the meaning of the phrase is clear, and in some contexs even justified. For instance, it may be used to differentiate Nazi concentration camps built on the Polish soil from those built on the territories not asocciated geographically with Poland. That's why I find the harsh comments on Obama's gaffe rather inadequate.
  • For many years the new media when referring to the World War II concentration camps that the Nazis built have been calling them “Polish death camps” or “Polish Concentration camps.” Although several of the camps are in Poland, including the infamous and maybe the most recognized camp, Auschwitz, these are not Polish camps!... For the media to refer to these camps as “Polish” is an insult!!

External linksEdit