Latest update: December 12th, 2012
CBS News reported that Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk is still “unsatisfied” with the White House apology for a comment made by President Barack Obama on Tuesday, about a “Polish death camp,” and demanded a more “explicit reaction.”
“We expect that America, in connection with this very statement, will join our efforts and help us eradicate such false and unjust phrases once and for all,” said Tusk, according to the Polish government’s website. “We always react in the same way to ignorance, lack of knowledge and ill will which lead to the distortion of history. Such phrases are especially painful for Poland – Europe’s most affected country by World War II.”
On Tuesday, while awarding a posthumous Medal of Freedom to Jan Karski, a Polish resistance fighter, President Obama described how Karski was smuggled “into the Warsaw Ghetto and a Polish death camp” to see for himself the atrocities taking place there.
Karski reported what he saw to President Roosevelt, in what Obama called “one of the first accounts of the Holocaust.”
Unfortunately, despite repeated pleas from Jewish leaders both in the U.S. and in Palestine, the Roosevelt administration did nothing to halt the shipment of Jews to the death camp, nor to disturb in any way the operation of those camps.
President Obama’s “Polish death camp” comment drew irate criticism from Polish officials, who would have preferred “German death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland,” or, simply, “Nazi death camp.”
One of the reasons Poland is so adamant regarding its historic role as victim, rather than collaborator, has to do with the possibility of being sued by Jewish Holocaust survivors for billions of dollars worth of property appropriated from Jews.
Last year, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski attacked the U.S. for its support of Jewish demands that Poland compensate Jews for property stolen from Jews during the Holocaust.
World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder said in reaction to Sikorski’s statement that “Poland is telling many elderly pre-war landowners, including Holocaust survivors, that they have no foreseeable hope of even a small measure of justice for the assets that were seized from them.”
Justice for Poland’s Jewish victims could result in the financial ruin of the Polish state, as an enormous part of that country’s wealth used to be owned by Jews who are no longer among us.
Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski accused Obama of “ignorance and incompetence,” and Premier Tusk suggested Obama’s view was a “distortion of history.”
The White House issued a statement saying the president had misspoken and expressed its regrets.
But Tusk was still not satisfied.
“I am certain that our American friends are capable of a more explicit reaction than issuing a correction and the spokesperson of the White House expressing regret, and that maybe they will once and for all eliminate such errors,” he said. “It is an issue to which we cannot be indifferent, for the sake of Poland, our country and our fellow countrymen. We cannot accept such words, even if they are uttered by the head of an ally superpower.”
In his daily press briefing Wednesday, White House press secretary Jay Carney recited the Warsaw-approved version of history, saying the president “was referring to the Nazi death camps in German-occupied Poland.”
“As we’ve made clear, we regret the misstatement,” Carney said, adding that the error “should not detract from the clear intention to honor Mr. Karski” and other Polish citizens “who fought against the terrible tyranny of the Nazis.”
Carney said he was not aware of any plans for the president or anyone else in the administration to call the Polish Prime Minister.
About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.
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