2018-02-05 The death camps in Poland issue

In the spirit of another PSA about Poland, I would like to mention to everyone that haven’t yet heard about it the issue of death camps in Poland.

Note that the introduction to this is longer than the actual message. I can’t do it another way without assuming you know a bit about Polish history, and I do not want to assume that.

Poland was the very first country invaded by Germany in 1939. On September 1, German armed forces entered Poland without even declaring a war. Two days later, as Poles hoped, Great Britain and France – our allies – declared war on Germany. Unfortunately, this was not followed by a real action.

On September 17, another of our neighbors – the Soviet Union – invaded us from the east. (Neither did they care enough to declare a war, even though the SU had a non-aggression pact signed with Poland at the time.) Imagine terrified families fleeting from the western part of Poland only to find another army attacking them…

If that was not enough, for the next few years a large part of Poland was under German rule. While we had the secret “underground state”, we could not do a lot – most if not all activities of this “underground state” were illegal and punishable by death. (This did not prevent us from accomplishing or at least attempting quite a few things, including the – unfortunately unsuccessful – Warsaw Uprising.)

During that time, on the territory of Poland (and also Austria, Germany and a few other countries), Germany built more than twenty extermination and concentration camps. They became very effective “death factories”, were people were mass killed at an unprecedented rate. It is well-known that Jews were the primary target, and perhaps lesser-known that there were other groups persecuted in a similar fashion: Poles (and several other nationalities) were also considered subhumans, and Catholic clergy was another group which was especially persecuted. Overall, close to three million Polish Jews were killed in these camps and elsewhere; it is estimated that about 2.8 million Poles shared their fate.

Yet, many people know about the former, but not about the latter. This would not be so bad if not for the still circulating lie about the “Polish death camps”. After all, they were located in Poland, weren’t they?

Well, saying “Polish death camps” in front of a Pole is a bit like saying about “the American terrorist attack of 9/11” in front of an American. Not only extremely offensive, but also an outright lie.

Yet this is what people say all the time. (This is also what e.g. Barack Obama said a few years ago. One might think that when a president of a country heavily offends his country’s ally, he will promptly apologize. The apology never happened, though, only an “expression of regret”, which is beyond my comprehension. But this is only a digression.)

So, after this lengthy introduction, what I want you to do? Well, not much. Just please never speak about “Polish death camps”, and correct people who might do so (most often out of ignorance, not malice, I presume).

And if you want to learn a bit more about the issue, you may start here. If you are afraid of some kind of bias (which is a legitimate concern), ask Wikipedia or any history textbook.

Thank you.

CategoryEnglish, CategoryBlog