Holocaust Museums Protest Use of Phrase 'Polish Death Camps'

Polish prosecutor refuses to open investigation into German newspaper's use of phrase.

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Directors of museums at Nazi camps sent a letter Monday to the Polish prosecutor's office, protesting a decision not to investigate a German newspaper's use of the phrase "Polish death camps."

In October, the Warsaw prosecutor’s office refused to open an investigation into the phrase “Polish death camps” used by the German newspaper Rheinische Post in August 2013. The request was submitted to the prosecution by members of the Union of Poles in Germany.

Under Polish law, publicly insulting the Polish Republic is punishable by imprisonment of up to three years. Polish prosecutors, however, have decided that the phrase “Polish death camps” is not saying that the Poles founded the camps but that they were located on Polish territory.

In the letter, which was sent Monday to Polish Attorney General and Polish Minister of Justice, the museum directors charged that failing to open an investigation undermines national efforts to eradicate the use of the term.

“We have seen many times how the lie confused young people from abroad – ready to believe that these camps were created and carried out by Poland and the Poles,” wrote the museum directors. “Perpetrators triumph and victims again are humiliated. After all, Nazi propaganda was based on the belief that a lie repeated many times becomes the truth in the end.”

The letter was signed by Piotr Cywinski, director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum, Tomasz Kranz, director of the Museum at Majdanek, Krzysztof Skwirowski, director of the Museum at Sobibor, and the directors of Belzec, Treblinka, Kulmhof, Stutthof, and Gross-Rosen.

A visitor walks between electric barbed-wired fences at the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial and former concentration camp, Nov. 18, 2013.Credit: Reuters

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