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Obama apologises to President Komorowski over 'Polish death camp' gaffe

PR dla Zagranicy
Nick Hodge 01.06.2012 11:30
Poland's president has received a letter from Barack Obama, following the diplomatic furore surrounding the US leader's ill-chosen use of the phrase “Polish death camp.”

photo - PAP/EPA/Olivier Douliery

Jaromir Sokolowski, Minister at the Presidential Chancellery, told the Polish Press Agency that Obama “regrets this error.”

According to Sokolowski the American president noted that over the last few years, Poland had “rightly fought” to eliminate such terms from public use.

Furthermore, Obama stated that his error could be “an opportunity to ensure that this and future generations to know the truth.”

In the letter to President Komorowski, Obama writes apologized for his words, "which caused pain, to many Poles over the years and [this is an issue] which Poland has rightly fought, trying to eliminate [this term] from public discussion in the world ," says Sokolowski.

In the letter, Obama stressed that he is aware that the camps at Auschwitz, Belzec, Treblinka and elsewhere in occupied Poland were built and operated by the Nazi German regime and not by Poland.

Both Polish and American diplomats are hoping that Obama's letter will calm the what has become a diplomatic incident that was sparked by the gaffe.

The US president made the initial error on Tuesday while awarding the Medal of Freedom – America's highest civilian honour – to the late Jan Karski, an iconic figure in Poland's World War II resistance.

As a courier for the official underground 'Home Army' (AK), Karski smuggled information concerning the Holocaust to the Polish government-in-exile in London and the British authorities.

“When someone says 'Polish death camps,' it is as if there were no Nazis, no German responsibility, as if there were no Hitler – that is why our Polish sensitivity in these situations is so much more than just simply a feeling of national pride,” Prime Minister Tusk stated on Wednesday.

America's Kosciuszko Foundation, together with the Polish Foreign Ministry, has been engaged in a long-running campaign to stamp out references to “Polish death camps” in the international press.

The campaign has had some success, with newspapers including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and San Francisco Times changing their style sheets to stop such references finding their way into their titles.

The Associated Press has adopted a similar resolution.

Meanwhile, the Polish Embassy in Madrid was compelled to intervene this week after established Spanish paper El Mundo referred to a “Polish death camp,” in an online article about the German football team's plans to visit the Auschwitz Museum during Euro 2012.

The article has since been corrected, and El Mundo has apologised for the error. (pg/nh)

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