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News Death camps in Poland - Obama's slip

  1. May 30, 2012 #1

    Borek

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    Sigh. Who writes Obama's speeches? For many years we fought US press and media so that they will stop mentioning "Polish death camps" instead of "death camps located in Poland". Small difference in wording, but huge difference in meaning. To some extent we were successful, many important papers added ban on "Polish death camps" to their editorial rules.

    Yesterday, Obama bestowed a Medal [STRIKE]of Honor[/STRIKE] of Freedom on a Polish WWII hero, Jan Kozielewski (known as Karski), and during his speech said "Polish death camps". What an irony. Karski is turning in the grave, he was one of the first people (if not the first person) that run from occupied Poland to the West to alarm the Allies about atrocities and genocide going on in the Nazi's concentration camps.
     
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2012
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  3. May 30, 2012 #2

    Astronuc

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    Ah - so that's what the current fuss is about. :rolleyes:
     
  4. May 30, 2012 #3
    About as many Poles died in the camps located in Poland as did Jews. When the Russians freed the camps, they found stores of Zyklon B gas far surpassing the amount needed to kill all the Jews in Europe. It is clear that the intention of the Nazis was to keep on killing and killing forever.

    Heinrich Himmler was commander of the Schutzstaffel (SS), the group that operated the camps.
     
  5. May 30, 2012 #4

    AlephZero

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    Think positve. Its seems likely that all the remaining presidential candidates (a) have heard of Poland (b) have a vague idea where it is, and (c) don't think they can see it from their house. The situation could be much worse than that.
     
  6. May 30, 2012 #5

    Curious3141

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    I honestly fail to see why all the fuss. I'm sure Obama just meant that the death camps were located geographically in Poland, and was not trying (consciously or otherwise) to shift blame from the Nazis to the Poles.

    To take another example, a particularly egregious instance of the British invaders' ignominious massacre of a large civilian population in India has always been referred to as the "Jallianwala Bagh massacre" or the "Amritsar massacre", referring to the location where the atrocity took place. I don't think the name has ever been controversial, but perhaps it should be called the "British massacre" to be PC? :rolleyes:
     
  7. May 30, 2012 #6

    russ_watters

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    Yes, I'm sure it was an honest mistake, but I can also see why Poles are sensitive about it, so I think they are entitled to be a little upset about it.

    Amercians? Notsomuch.
     
  8. May 30, 2012 #7
    I don't get it either. I bet if it wasn't election season you would never even have heard about this. I just figured it was the GOP trying to smear Obama again.
     
  9. May 31, 2012 #8
    Every President has their gaffes. President Obama thinks there's 57 US States and that there are Polish death camps, President GW Bush couldn't pronounce a few words right, President Ford tripped every where he went, President Clinton turned the White House in to his own Playboy Mansion, President Kennedy said he was a jelly doughnut, etc...

    Personally, whenever I have heard the phrase 'Polish death camps' I think 'Nazi camps located in Poland' not Polish-sanctioned camps. I do understand the connotation, however, and think that it's an unfortunate phrasing which is a bit easier to say (Americans love their language shortcuts!).
     
  10. May 31, 2012 #9
    Actually, it seems its mostly Polish people that are upset about it. Not *everything* is about American politics. :wink:
     
  11. May 31, 2012 #10

    Borek

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    Trick is, many people may be not aware of the difference. Especially taking into account level of knowledge of history and geography in the general public (not necessarily American general public, although it is proverbial).
     
  12. May 31, 2012 #11
    I think it's important to be respectful of the cultural norms in other countries, especially when it comes to talking about one of the most significant things to ever happen in that country.
     
  13. May 31, 2012 #12

    Borek

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    Let me put it differently - would you like to hear people referring to 9/11 as an American terrorist attack?

    (This is unrelated to SHISHKABOB post above, it just occurred to me that it can be a good example of a sloppy language use).

    Note: I am perfectly aware of the fact it can be seen from the outside as a bloated sensitivity or something like that, which is why I don't care much about such things when they happen in press or on TV. But this is a high profile case, not some undereducated journalist.
     
  14. May 31, 2012 #13

    russ_watters

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    That's not quite the same, Borek. An attack is an event, a "camp" is an object. IMO, the problem here is mostly of ambiguity in the functioning of the English language. Consider:

    Boston Marathon
    Normandy invasion (of German forces on Franch land, by allied forces)
    Russian Campaign (invasion of Russia by Napoleon)
    German autobahn
    Berlin/German Olympics
    German Chocolate Cake

    Boston is a city, "German" is a group of people from Germany doing something (an event done by the people), an object in the country of Germany, an event in the country of Germany and a food invented in Germany, by Germans. But it just so happens that while "German" can mean from Germany or people of Germany, "Boston" refers only to the city. The inhabitants are "Bostonians". Perhaps because the word is cumbersome, it isn't often used. But "German" or "Polish" can equally describe an event in the country or by the people of that country. But that creates ambiguity if the "in" and "by" are two different countries.

    Now there also aren't many conextexts in which an object or event happens in one country but is perpetrated by another and most of those have to do with war. In that sense, "Russian Campaign" and "Polish death camps" are similar. Russia wasn't invaded by Russians and the Polish didn't run the death camps. So the ambiguity happens because "Polish death camp" really can be referring to an object in Poland or an object owned by Poland. It's not really wrong, it is just ambiguous. But being that it is an object in a war, I'd tend to prefer specificity.
     
    Last edited: May 31, 2012
  15. May 31, 2012 #14
    I asked my Polish wife's ( 2nd gen Canadian ) mother the question at some point in the past. She had life just out of the camps and got shipped off to never never land ... and ended up here in Canada. Found a Man she knew ( blush and loved from back then ) married and I got to talk to her. ... hmmm hmmm I digress.

    She seemed to think it was nothing. but she seemed quite intense about it.
    to paraphrase ... ' ...No fool would think they were 'Polish' camps!...
    There were many camps and we all know 'who's' they were. '

    I agree with her, in that the designation, 'Polish death camp' or anywhereDeathcamp' are simply locators of the 'german' camps. No shame on the host country.
     
    Last edited: May 31, 2012
  16. May 31, 2012 #15

    Vanadium 50

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    Does anyone think this was the best choice of words? Perhaps, as the US press is suggesting, the Poles are oversensitive, but even if that were true, would it not have been wise to have framed this in a way less likely for them to take offense?

    The most likely explanation is that this was written by some 22 year old Poly Sci major fresh out of college delighted to have a job as the junior assistant to the deputy assistant aide to the assistant deputy White House press secretary. And, unfortunately, for whatever reason, this wasn't deemed important enough for someone higher up to check.

    By the way, it's the Presidential Medal of Freedom, not the Medal of Honor. Totally different awards.
     
  17. May 31, 2012 #16
    I think someone with good command of English should be able to distinguish between "Polish death camps" and "(German) death camps located in Poland".
     
  18. Jun 1, 2012 #17

    lisab

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    Borek, if it's any consolation, I can promise that when the typical American hears "Auschwitz" they immediately associate it with Nazis, *not* Poles.

    In fact, I hate to admit it, but I bet very few even know it's located in Poland :frown:.
     
  19. Jun 2, 2012 #18
    Not that this gaffe will influence who I vote for in the election, in either direction, but we surely know that if it were Bush or Clinton who said that, they would get lambasted by the media.

    Obama should be thankful that he is Obama.
     
  20. Jun 2, 2012 #19

    lisab

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    How can you say "we surely know"? Where are your references?
     
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