While trying to honor the famous Polish war hero, Jan Karski, with a Presidential Medal of Freedom, President Obama may have ended up creating a scandal. During the ceremony, the president’s poor choice of words ignited a firestorm of controversy in the nation of Poland.
In reference to a Nazi death camp yesterday, Obama failed to define the Warsaw location as German-operated in occupied Poland, and instead referred to it simply as “a Polish death camp.”
The gaffe leaves the impression that it was Poland who had created and operated the death camp.
While the comment drew little attention here in the States, it made headlines all across Poland, eventually prompting the Polish Foreign Minister to blast Obama, saying that his “ignorance and incompetence” had upstaged an important ceremony.
A report in The Economist explains why Poland takes exception to the reference:
Few things annoy Poles more than being blamed for the crimes committed by the Nazi occupiers of their homeland. For many years, Polish media, diplomats and politicians have tried to persuade outsiders to stop using the phrase “Polish death camps” as a shorthand description of Auschwitz and other exemplars of Nazi brutality and mass murder.
Unfortunately this seems to have escaped Barack Obama’s staff.
Many things escape the Obama administration, but this one seems to have upset an ally to the United States.
Obama must issue an apology to quell the incident that a majority of the Polish media is calling ‘scandalous’.