Well. It looks like Obama said during the Medal of Freedom ceremony mentioning a Polish war hero that there were "Polish death camps". Yes, there were in Majdanek and Bygodosch and -Dachau-(error not in Poland, in Germany) and Auschwitz. They happened to be on Polish territory when Poles were or were not cooperating with the Nazis to set them up and supply them. They weren't set up in Germany or in France or in Austria or in other counties where there were Nazi sympathizers. They were set up in Poland.
Rather awful to have to mention it, really. Poland had little choice in the matter. They could have resisted, some 3 million Poles were slated for extermination because they happened to be Jewish. There was also the 15,000 Whites officers and intelligentia of Poland's captured army, as opposed to Reds who were not trusted by Stalin and when he captured them as part of the 1940 Axis/USSR non aggression pact simply massacred them. (More past the squiggly thingy)
That was the brutal calculus of removing an enemy before that enemy could fight back.
Poles had horrendous choices. Some were of their own doing, but most came from being directly in the path of the German war machine, the first opportunity to flex Hitler's improved war machine the direct blitzkreig and regain Danzig, make the Western, Northern parts of Germany secure . Of course it was also link up with admirers of the new Reich and install them as a puppet government (the "General Gouvernment" of 1939 to 1945) and get on with the Final Solution to cleanse Germany and Poland of the "imperfect and degenerate" non Aryans, especially the Romany, the various undesireables but especially the Jews.
The Poles under Marshall Pilsudski, the dictator of Poland, had taken steps before the war, such as forbidding Jews from going to University in 1938, and other forms of discrimination to prepare public opinion for dehumanizing the Jews. The ghettos were considered a good idea. It simply isn't true that Poles were helpless or ignorant of all that befell them and their most significant non Catholic minority. Not true at all.
Thus the "outrage", the protest by Donald Tusk, by Lech Kacyinski and others over the comments "Polish Death camps" is striking a nerve about a touchy and inconvenient part of Poland's history quite unintentionally but regardless of protests still it is there.
From yesterday's Daily Telegraph blog: Pam Barone
Yesterday 11:39 PM
Considering the number of Jewish properties now in the hands of non-Jewish people in Poland, and how many non-Jewish Poles assisted in rounding up their Jewish neighbors, I am inclined to give President Obama the benefit of the doubt.
I will go further before some Polish hero or chauvinist protests indignantly about this: I also know a family, several actually, that themselves survived camps during the war and DIDN"T GO BACK BECAUSE THEY WERE HORRIFIED AT WHAT THEIR NEIGHBORS HAD DONE.
38 million Poles are outraged according to Drudge. No, some millions are, but most are not because many younger Poles are not completely aware of the history, the sordid history. Obama was speaking of a hero - a man who risked his life to report on the camps and the ghetto. He died. He was praised in the discussion. The foofara of the Murdoch press and the slimeball Drudge was to speak over a kerfuffle that the Poles in power today are nursing injured feelings because these were " Nazi "death camps, nothing to do with Poland. OK, why did the Germans press on so confidently with massacring 3 million Poles if they didn't feel a certain amount of support for that right in Poland and tacit approval? Hmmmm?
It couldn't be related to things like: even in today's Poland, the idea of setting up a black site for torturing captives to help US intelligence and even offering up a missile site and making their country a hot target in return for some economic favors down the road? Some heroes the present gang of Polish leaders turned out to be. Those Polish families that fought courageously in WW 2, and decided it was too risky to return to Poland had more than one reason not to trust the collaborationists then or now. Disgusting. Yes, you see, a disinterested person with nothing to hide or be ashamed of can see a mention of Polish death camps and understand the literal meaning of it. It is no more or no less then the dry awful facts. Poles had chances to oppose them. A few, yes a 100,000 abroad and some thousands at home, more than a few did. But most went along either passively or willingly. None of that came up in the Medal of Freedom ceremony.
Those are the facts. That is written in graveyards and battlefields and genealogical databases and first hand accounts of people who were there and involved. Properties? Such as homes and businesses and cultural items like paintings and art and even many children helpfully saved and assigned to childless or challenged couples even as the parents went on the trains to one way destinations. That was a significant part of the legacy of the home front in Poland. Madeline Allbright was a participant, an unwilling participant in that process.
Now don't get upset here, it had nothing to do with Obama's mention. He was simply speaking to the courage of a fighter who perished trying to reveal the truth of the existence of the camps and the heroism of the ghetto fighters. It was the US state department of that era and its antisemetic bias at the time that was a co enabler of the world wide antisemitism elsewhere including in Poland. Oswego New York and isolating from help and fellow Jews some 943 for the duration doesn't count as a win except as a token effort.
The attempt to make this a POTUS slip of the tongue has inadvertently led to a slip open of the curtain that Poles drew over the shame of that time.
There are Polish heroes, some men and women you have never heard of. They risked everything, even in what may have seemed a quixotic and hopeless fight to do the right thing. There are a few Poles who fought in Poland in September of 1939, for several weeks, got away before surrendering what was left standing and fought in Dunquerque with the English last stand in France, and then went via GB to North Africa and the Sahara and then the invasion of Italy and Monte Cassino and then all the way round to DDay and onto Fortress Germany. 5 and a half years always in battle.
There are a few who didn't even know if there was to be a country left, a people, their families left alive for them to return to. Let them opine on BHO or that comment if they choose to, but laugh and snicker at Murdoch's scolding words repeated by hirelings like Drudge and the dreadful Daily Telegraph and the teaparty scribblers.
Thu May 31, 2012 at 6:59 AM PT: This week's Monday was Memorial Day and a chance to reflect on an earlier "Medal of Freedom" awarded to Polish heroes, survivors of the long battle to seize Monte Cassino in the Allies drive from the South to reach Axis Germany. President Obama got some guff from Right wingers in Poland and here about his accurate honoring of a Polish hero who publicized the death camps. Even in Chicago the truth about who did what and why resonates. Mont Cassino was special.
Nearly six thousand Poles died in the hills there before May 18th and the fall of the monastery and surrender of the last few German defenders who were wounded and too weak to get away.. A special medal was created for the commemoration, the St Andrew's Cross and 4,655 were awarded to the survivors who left most of their number buried right there. The medals exist in surplus, a number of them fell into the hands of those wanting some unearned cachet and collectors.
These medals had an interesting characteristic: they were serially numbered. That meant that after the war, even in Chicago veteran's clubs and Polish bars there was often talk of the exploits of the new and old Polish emigrees and inhabitants of the city. If a person claimed he was at Monte Cassino, the curious would ask to see his medal. If he pulled it out or had waved it around in the first place, the real vets would seize it and flip it over. If the number was higher than 4655, that was a fake, not a real award and the holder would be tossed none too gently out the door and warned about claiming anything to do with defending freedom or saving America or Poland.