“Polish Concentration Camp”

Official Response from the Polish Consulate in Chicago

Polish Consulate in ChicagoDear Mr. Anger,

I wish to draw your attention to the fact that your story “Michigan Holocaust survivors’ stories told in new interactive online exhibit” of January 7, 2013 of the printed edition contains a grave distortion of historical facts.

In the caption under the photograph of Holocaust Survivor Manny Mittelman and his wife, the author of the article Mark Stryker uses the hugely erroneous phrase “Polish concentration camp”. This unfortunate choice of words is—perhaps inadvertently—an obvious implication that the Nazi German Concentration Camp Auschwitz-Birkenau in German-occupied Poland (according to the official UNESCO terminology) was allegedly Polish.

Readers without a thorough historical knowledge of World War II might thus conclude that the concentration camp was run by the Poles. I would appreciate your prompt response to whether or not this was the message you meant to communicate to the readers of Detroit Free Press?

Also, please allow me to explain–lest this might not be obvious to you–that Auschwitz is the German name for Oświęcim, a Polish town forcibly incorporated into the German Third Reich after the German invasion in September 1939. The entire Auschwitz death camps compound was established and operated by German Nazis. Occupied Poland was never an ally of Nazi Germany and never had a collaborative regime. Poland never capitulated as a state to the German Third Reich. What is more, six million Polish citizens were killed during World War II, half of whom were Polish-Jews.

For your information, the Associated Press updated its widely-used media stylebook, urging journalists not to use the term your newspaper used. What is more, the American Jewish Committee also officially condemned the usage of this expression.

I am confident that not only Michigan’s large population of Americans of Polish descent would be appalled to see Detroit Free Press not try its best to remedy the use of this unfortunate expression. Even though the erroneous phrase has already been removed from the online version of the article, it is my firm belief that it would be advantageous for the maintenance of your reputation to publish a suitable apology and correction without further delay in the next issue of Detroit Free Press and in all the other electronic media in which the article appeared.

Please be advised that this request is shared with our readers on the website of the Polish Consulate General in Chicago: www.chicago.mfa.gov.pl.

Sincerely,

Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in Chicago
1530 N. Lake Shore Drive,
Chicago, Illinois 60610