New York, NY, May 30, 2012 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today welcomed a statement from the White House expressing regret for President Obama's description of the Nazi death camps in Poland as "Polish death camps" in honoring Jan Karski with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director and a Holocaust survivor from Poland, issued the following statement:
We commend the White House for appropriately recognizing their error in describing the Nazi death camps in Poland as "Polish death camps" and immediately expressing regret for the mistake. This is a perennial problem, and the president's unwitting mistake only highlights the need for ongoing education about the history of World War II and the Holocaust.
The misnomer "Polish death camps" unjustly implies that the death camps in Poland were built in the name of the Polish people rather than by the Nazi regime. While the White House acknowledged that the president misspoke, the administration should turn this mistake into a teachable moment for the American public and explain more fully why the expression "Polish death camps" offends our strong ally, Poland, and distorts the history of the Holocaust. By doing so, the White House will do more than rectify a mistake; it will strengthen the relationship of trust with Poland and promote Holocaust education.
As an agency that prioritizes remembrance of the Holocaust, ADL has frequently spoken out on this topic and has expressed full support for the efforts of the government of Poland to ensure that the official names of the death camps in Poland emphasize that the camps were built and operated by Nazi Germany.
In 2006, ADL wrote to UNESCO to ensure that the official name of Auschwitz, as recorded on UNESCO's world heritage site registry, emphasizes that the camp was built and operated by Nazi Germany.