US President Barack Obama’s description of a Nazi German Holocaust site as a “Polish death camp” shocked Poland, whose leaders insist the record be set straight 67 years after World War II.
President Obama on Tuesday labelled the Nazi facility used to process Jews for extermination as a “Polish death camp.” The White House later said the president “misspoke” and expressed “regret”.
The linguistic faux pas overshadowed Mr Obama’s posthumous award of the highest US civilian honour, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, to Jan Karski, a former Polish underground officer who provided early eyewitness accounts of Nazi Germany’s genocide of European Jews.
Poland’s Prime Minister Donald Tusk said on Wednesday Mr Obama’s words had hurt all Poles and he expected more from Washington than just “regret”.
Poland’s anti-communist icon Lech Walesa meanwhile termed Obama’s error a “golden occasion” to set the historical record straight.
Between 1939 and 1945, nearly six million Polish citizens perished under Nazi Germany’s brutal World War II occupation of their country.
More than half of Poland’s victims were of Jewish origin. Many were killed in death camps set up by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland — including the most notorious, Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Poland’s government keenly watches the global media for descriptions of former Nazi German death camps as “Polish”.
Although located in Poland, Auschwitz for example was set up and run entirely by German dictator Adolf Hitler’s occupying forces from 1940 to 1945.