According to various news reports, Poland’s Prime Minister (PM) is rather upset over President Obama’s misspeak this week when he referred to “Polish death camps” during a ceremony honoring a World War II hero, saying he wants a “stronger, more pointed” response.
So, what’s the President to do? He can allow Poland to be upset for awhile, and allow conservative talking heads to make fun of him, or he can say he’s sorry and deal with the unending litany of being accused of apologizing for America again.
And while the phrasing may be considered hugely offensive in Poland, where Nazi Germany murdered Poles, Jews and others in death camps it built during World War II on Polish and German territory, the facts are more than 225,000 Poles served in the Wehrmacht, Kriegsmarine and even in the Waffen SS, so Poland isn’t exactly completely innocent when all things are considered.
Former President and Solidarity founder Lech Walesa said the phrase confused henchmen with their victims but that Obama’s mistake might prevent similar statements by others.
The White House has tried to explain that the president misspoke in bestowing the Medal of Freedom posthumously on Jan Kozielewski, alias Karski, a Polish emissary who in 1943 alerted Allied leaders to mass killing of Jews. In order to gather first-hand evidence he risked his life and was secretly smuggled into the Warsaw Ghetto and a death camp. Additionally, it was pointed out President Obama has visited the Warsaw Ghetto Memorial while in Poland and that he has repeatedly discussed the bravery of Poles during World War II.
Yes, Poland was and still is one of our strongest allies, but this was not a deliberate attempt to insult the Polish people, and in fact this continued petulance over the issue is overshadowing the awarding of the Medal of Freedom to one their countrymen; unfortunately, Poland can’t really deny there were death camps in Poland, and that Poles served in the military of the Third Reich; accept the explanation and move on, or perhaps you’d prefer to deal with your Russian cousins to the East?