Jan Karski, who was instrumental in bringing news of the Nazis murderous and genocidal ways to a skeptical West, may have blown over quickly in the U.S. press, but it continues to be a hot topic in Poland, where journalists in the country have helped lead a decades-long fight to eradicate the wildly offensive misnomer. David Frum does a really fantastic job over at the Daily Beast explaining exactly why the misnomer is so hurtful coming from the American President. Frum offers up as an analogy the use of the term “Hawaiian sneak attacks on Pearl Harbor,” which he calls a “pathetically inadequate approximation.”The controversy over President Obama describing Nazi concentration camps in Poland “Polish death camps” while awarding the Medal of Freedom posthumously to the Pole known as
I don’t have much to add to David Frum’s very insightful comments on the topic, except to offer my own perhaps less inadequate analogy. Imagine in half a century, some country somewhere in gratitude to all the sacrifices the United States had made for it, honors the last surviving first responders to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and while bestowing honors upon the firefighters, EMS and police officers there, that country’s president refers to bravery of the first responders in the “American attacks on 9/11 that took down the World Trade Center and damaged the Pentagon.” The planes all departed from American airports, were part of American airliners, and executed their attack in America. Yet they were no more American attacks than the Nazi’s death camps were Polish, even though both tragedies left an indelible mark on the countries they befell.