President Obama Must Apologize For “Polish Death Camp” Blunder

On a day that he honored Jan Karski, the Polish hero who tried to stop the Holocaust, President Barack Obama shocked the Poles present at the White House and those watching on C-SPAN by claiming that Karski had been smuggled into “a Polish death camp.” Karski would have cringed if he heard this. It was a German death camp in Nazi occupied Poland.

Over the past two years, more than 300,000 people have signed a petition on the Kosciuszko Foundation’s web site requesting media outlets to stop using this historically erroneous phrase. So far, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the Associated Press and others have changed their stylebooks to ban the use of this phrase. Now, the Obama White House must do the same.

President Obama’s remarks are already being called “scandalous” by media outlets in Poland. Obama was seen reading this phrase off a teleprompter. The President must acknowledge his mistake and apologize for it. He must do it for Karski and the other Poles that risked their lives trying to stop the Holocaust.

I am particularly disappointed in President Obama because I praised him on the Huffington Post just minutes before he made this faux pas. It was a strange way for Obama to honor Jan Karski.

Alex Storozynski
President & Executive Director
The Kosciuszko Foundation


  1. Co jest wazne za za prezydentury Polski Lecha Kaczynskiego, po wielu latach pracyy udalo sie zmienic nazwe w UNESCO ONZ ” NA NIEMIECKIE NAZI OBOZY KONCETRACYJNE ” Dzieki zabieganiom SP. Prezydenta i Anny Fotygi bylego szefa MSZ Polski. Ten Film powstal jako nauka historii dla tych co jej nie znaja.

    Harvard graduate can’t make this kind of mistake.

    Reply to President of the USA Obama Film designed to counter misconceptions about the existence of „Polish death camps” took place on the country’s national day, November 11. The Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent the film Upside Down to all the country’s embassies and consulates. The title refers to the total reversal of roles—the roles of perpetrator and victim—in this case. Upside Down will be shown on the educational channel used by schools in Canada. TVP Info will show it in Poland in the near future. Upside Down will also be distributed for free with the Toronto Star, a newspaper where the phrase “Polish concentration camps” appeared particularly frequently.

    During a presentation for journalists in Warsaw, Andrzej Sadoś from the Minitry of Foreign Affairs stressed that the origins of the concept of “Polish death camps” or “Polish concentration camps” lie in profound historical ignorance, especially among the young. He noted that the film contains interviews with students from elite schools who are completely unembarrassed by their lack of knowledge. They cannot explain who the Nazis were. When asked who built concentration camps in Poland, they reply: “They’re Polish camps—so, it was the Poles.”

  2. President Nixon Visit to Poland Nixon in open car in Poland, a quarter million line the tour route, Nixon’s plane arrives in Washington, 4000 throng the airport, Nixon speaks, drives to White House, reports to Dwight Eisenhower with Milton (partial newsreel)

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