Against Polish Death/Concentration Camps: A How-To Guide
The trial, conviction and release of John Demjanjuk has generated extensive media coverage. As such, there’s an increase in the occurrence of factually incorrect slurs as „Polish death camps” in news articles. We react whenever we see such slurs. We need you to do the same.
We’ll use excerpts from actual articles to guide you through the process step-by-step.
We?ll begin with this sentence:
John Demjanjuk has been convicted of aiding the Nazis in the murder of at least 28,000 Jews at the Sobibor Polish death camp during World War II.
I. Check the comments section. Has anyone reacted there to the phrase? If not, do so right away, so that readers see your correction right away. Remember that your comment should include a request / demand for correction.
Example: Calling Sobibor a ?Polish death camp” is factually incorrect. There were no Polish death camps. There were German Nazi death camps. Please correct this error immediately.
II. Gather your information and facts: Article publication, title, author, and phrase. Also gather information on why the particular phrase used is incorrect. You can also include some historical context, such as:
Example: Calling Sobibor „Polish” is incorrect for two reasons: The camps were set up and run by Nazi Germany, not Poland. It is also unacceptable to use the word „Polish” as a geographical descriptor because there was no Polish state at the time the camps existed. The territory on which the camps were located had been invaded and remained occupied by Nazi Germany throughout the entirety of the camps’ operation.
III. Research who to write to. Each publication will differ, but there’ll generally be an email address and /or phone number to the editor.
IV. Write your letter. Include any and all relevant facts. Be firm. And tell the editor or journalist exactly what you’d like to see done:
I would appreciate the immediate removal of the phrase „Sobibor Polish death camp” online and wherever else it may appear.
V. Remind the publication that the New York Times recently updated its styleguide. You can include the actual entry:
„Given the sensitivity of this topic, take extra care in historical references to the Nazi concentration camps of World War II. For camps in countries occupied by Nazi Germany, avoid ambiguous or misleading phrases like ‚Polish concentration camp’ or ‚Polish death camp,’ which could give the mistaken impression that the camps were run by Poland.”
VI. Send your email. Encourage others to do the same. Post links on Facebook; tweet about it. Tell us about the article and what you?ve done: email@example.com
VII. Check back within a day to see whether the phrase has been updated. If not, send another email, make another phone call.
Other phrases that have been published
As unthinkable as these may seem, they?ve all been published:
„Sobibor camp, located in Poland”
The camps were not located in Poland, they were located in German-occupied Poland. That’s a very important distinction, because the camps were not on Polish soil because Poles and the Polish government wanted them to be. They were there because Germany occupied Poland at the onset of World War II and set up their camps there to carry out their murderous plans on Jews, Poles, and anyone who opposed them.
Poles fought the Nazi invasion from day one of World War II until its very end, and paid an enormous price with the loss of six million human lives and massive destruction of the country.
There were German Nazis. There were not Polish Nazis. Poland never collaborated with Nazi Germany.
„Polish concentration camp survivor”
Media publications may explain that they mean this phrase to describe the survivor’s nationality. Unfortunately, this phrase then conveys that someone survived a Polish concentration camp, which, of course, is impossible since Polish concentration camps did not exist.
Explain that there are more precise ways of phrasing these words to ensure clear historical accuracy. For example, „Polish survivors of a German concentration camp.”
Why is it important that you also react when we always do so?
Because it’s important for media to hear these reactions from as many voices as possible, and for them to know that we?re all paying attention. And it?s important because people have started to forget: We cannot let that happen. And we cannot allow history to be distorted.
More information to use when writing to media outlets
?The Anti-Defamation League has expressed full support for the efforts of the government of Poland to ensure that the official names of the death camps in Poland emphasize that the camps were built and operated by Nazi Germany.”
?For example, in 2006 the League wrote to the directorgeneral of UNESCO to ensure that the official name of the Auschwitz death camp, as recorded on UNESCO?s world heritage site registry, emphasizes that the camp was German and run by the Nazis.”
?As an agency which prioritizes remembrance of the Holocaust, we share Poland?s concerns over the frequent description of the camps as ?Polish.'”
?Such a description implies that the camps were built in the name of the Polish people. This is manifestly not the truth.?- Todd Gutnick, the ADL’s Director of Media Relations and Public Information:
Jerusalem Post, 5/16/11, „Warsaw stresses: Death camps in Poland were German„
U.S. Helsinki Commission
?It is an historical error when news agencies reporting about the Auschwitz concentration camp in Nazi German-occupied Poland call it a ?Polish concentration camp.” – Rep. Chris Smith, Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission
Press Release, July 29, 2011 – U.S. HELSINKI COMMISSION WELCOMES RECOGNITION OF ROMANI VICTIMS OF NAZI GENOCIDE; URGES OTHER EUROPEAN NATIONS TO ACT
Photos of the Auschwitz-Birkenau German Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp:
1. The infamous entrance sign reads: „ARBEIT MACHT FREI” – „Work will set you free.” Photo by Muu-karhu
2. The main entrance gate. Photo by Michel Zacharz