67 Years later

“Polish Death Camps” — The Polish Mission Responds

Educating people about the horrors the world witnessed in the 1940s is an extraordinarily emotional duty.Those of us who’ve dedicated ourselves to building a better future have shouldered that somber duty though, in hopes that we may never again allow our children to inherit such painful words like genocide, Holocaust, and extermination in future history books.Humanity bears great guilt for the horrors so clearly realized in a dark network of secluded camps in the aftermath of our biggest and most terrible conflict.What we discovered in those brick and barbed wire hells, will ever follow our experience as a reminder of the evil power of indifference and hatred.Countless tears have been shed in grief for the over eleven million people lost in the Nazi program of mass extermination.

Those tears will ever be a hallmark of our human experience, but at this moment they’re flowing faster thanks to President Obama’s recent statement in which he referred to “Polish death camps” during the Medal of Freedom award ceremony on May 29, 2012.Poland’s occupation by Nazi Germany from 1939-45 was the most brutal military occupation in human history.When Nazi authorities declared that the recently conquered lands would be the base for an extermination program, Poland’s beautiful countryside became forever scarred; permanently disfigured by unthinkable horror.

Explanations (excuses) are rampant from every corner of Washington DC, and diplomats and commentators are eager to opine from behind their keyboards, but for this offense, there can be no explanation, and no cheap dismissal.That the President of our nation and his circles of advisers and supporters could allow such a statement, is outrageous!  The US and Poland have ever shared the strongest of bonds, from the battlefields of the American Revolution, to the War on Terror, to modern geo-politics.  Yesterday, President Obama and his team cast a cold shadow on that bright legacy.  How shameful it is that were it only for the smallest degree of sensitivity, our President could have chosen to show respectful thanks to the people who make up the eighth-largest minority in the US.Instead, Polish people and their legacy were pushed farther away from the same American experience they fought and died to be a part of.Moreover, the families of some of those very heroes are strangled by the current Visa legislation.

The Polish Mission is deeply saddened by our country’s leaders.  At the same time, we are reminded of our duty.  As we wait for the President’s formal and sincere apology to the millions of Poles worldwide, our mission to build a better future through education is made all the more clear.  As we prepare to welcome the Forbidden Art exhibition from the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum to the North America, we are more determined than ever before to share our Polish Story with the world, so such an offense may never happen again.