Friday, March 31, 2006

Poland Seeks Designation Change For Auschwitz

This in from The Washington Post, The Guardian,BBC and dozens more newspapers:
WARSAW, Poland -- Poland wants to change the official name of the Auschwitz death camp on the U.N.'s world heritage directory to emphasize that it was run by German Nazis, not Poles, an official said Thursday.
The government requested that UNESCO, the U.N.'s educational and cultural body, change the name from "Auschwitz Concentration Camp" to "Former Nazi German Concentration Camp Auschwitz-Birkenau," Culture Ministry spokesman Jan Kasprzyk said.
Polish officials have complained in the past that foreign media sometimes refer to Auschwitz - a death camp located in occupied Poland where Nazi Germans killed 1.5 million people during World War II - as a "Polish concentration camp."

The casual description of German concentration camps on Polish soil as 'Polish camps' has long caused considerable offense to many Poles. If the initiative helps avoid some of these slips of the tongue, so much the better, yet I fear that the English language being what it is, the phrase will keep on recurring.

Connoisseurs of fact-checking and accuracy might be intrigued to know that of the three media outlets cited above, only the BBC got the numbers right:
More than a million people, almost all Jews, died there between 1940 and 1945.
In 1991, Franciszek Piper of the Auschwitz State Museum authored a work, Die Zahl der Opfer von Auschwitz , which gave the death toll as 1.1 million. Since then, new research has indicated that 80,000 more Hungarian Jews than were previously assumed survived the selections during May to July 1944 to be deported to other concentration camps. Piper himself demolished the attempt by Spiegel editor Fritjof Meyer to reduce the Auschwitz death toll to under half a million on the basis of dubious source interpretations.


  1. As a Pole, I have mixed feelings about it. On one hand, the phrase "Polish concentration camps" is misleading, and the myth that the Poles somehow helped the Germans carry on the Holocaust is a dredful wrong to my country.

    On the other, I don't like changing an established name just to make a point. Why not kill the two birds with one stone and include some other forgotten historical truths in the name, while we're at it? I propose "Former Nazi German Concentration Camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, Run By Germans in Poland Which Never Surrendered And Did Not Have A Quisling But Was Betrayed In Yalta (And We Helped To Break The Enigma Code!)". There.

  2. Dzien dobry, Anonymous - d'ya mind giving a name, we'd prefer not to have anonymous posts.

    I like the renaming of 'Poland Which Never Surrendered And Did Not Have A Quisling But Was Betrayed In Yalta (And We Helped To Break The Enigma Code!)'

    Can I add (And Won The Battle of Britain! And Took Cassino! And Rose Up Before Rokossovsky Arrived!)

    among many other things ;-)

  3. Sorry Nick, the posting apparatus acted weirdly :(

    (But we *did* take Monte Cassino!)

  4. Should have guessed it was you!

    I'm disappointed no deniers have come along to dispute the figures. ;-(

  5. nick, they only dispute the inflated 6 million figure claiming it is "official".

  6. According to Polish press, the World Jewish Congress is against the name change. Maram Stern of WJC accused Poland of trying to separate itself from the history of the camp and trying to hide the fact that, according to him, Poles were helping Germans to build the camp.

    It seems not only deniers could use some history lessons. Don't ask me why WJC is not going to be a popular institution in Poland for some time to come.


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