Minister seeks punishment for use of phrase ‘Polish death camp’

Grounds of the former Nazi German concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz in Oswiecim, Poland. © Laszlo Balogh
Polish Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro has decided to ban wording associating Poland with death camps built on the country’s territory by the Nazis, seeking to end the irresponsible use of the phrase “Polish death camp” once and for all.

Poland’s officials have long considered it insulting that their country is often mentioned in references to World War II death camps that were built and largely operated by the Nazis on Polish territory.

Now the minister wants to introduce laws officially punishing those who use such misleading phrases, Reuters reported on Saturday. The project has already been presented to Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo, who reportedly reacted to it positively.

This will be a project that meets the expectations of Poles, who are blasphemed in the world, in Europe, even in Germany, that they are the Holocaust perpetrators, that in Poland there were Polish concentration camps, Polish gas chambers,” the news agency reported Ziobro as telling Polish RMF radio.

Enough with this lie. There has to be responsibility,” the minister added.

Concentration camps built by the Nazis outside of Germany are almost never referred to as “Polish” in Poland, but the phrase “Polish death camps” is still widely used in publications outside of the country.

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Arguing that such wording suggest that Poland was somehow responsible for the Nazi death camps, a number of Polish organizations and officials, including former foreign minister Adam Daniel Rotfeld, have discouraged their usage.