"Polish death camp" controversy

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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.


  • 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.

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