Polish concentration camps



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ONTARIO PRESS COUNCIL RULINGS

ON “POLISH CONCENTRATION CAMPS”
The Ottawa Citizen

March 24, 1988


Press Council supports complaint against Citizen review
Toronto – The Ontario Press Council has upheld a complaint by the Canadian Polish Congress about a review in the Citizen of the movie Sophie's Choice.

The complaint, brought by Dr. A.H. Makomaski of the congress's Ottawa branch, involved the phrase "Polish concentration camp survivor."

The Citizen maintained this meant Sophie was a "Polish survivor of a concentration camp," but Makomaski said members of the Polish community interpreted it as "a survivor of a Polish concentration camp."

And he emphasized that concentration camps in Nazi-occupied Poland during the Second World War were, in fact, established and run by Hitler's Germany.

The council has received a number of complaints in recent years from Polish groups sensitive to any misleading suggestion that such camps were Polish. It agreed that the phrase was ambiguous.

Text of the adjudication:

A capsule review of the film Sophie's Choice in the Nov. 8, 1987, edition of The Ottawa Citizen said Meryl Streep won an Oscar for her portrayal of 'a Polish concentration camp survivor.'

While the newspaper maintained this meant Sophie was a Polish woman who had survived imprisonment in a Nazi concentration camp, the press council finds the phrase ambiguous.

It agrees with the complainant that it could be interpreted to suggest the camp itself was Polish, an incorrect statement in light of the fact that Second World War concentration camps in Nazi-occupied Poland were established and operated by Hitler's Germany.

The complaint is upheld.



The Toronto Star

November 9, 1992


Be clear on origin of death camps council urges
From the Ontario Press Council

Forty-seven years after the end of World War II there are probably many newspaper readers in Canada who do not know death camps in Poland were established and operated by Nazi Germany, the Ontario Press Council says.

In adjudicating a complaint by the Canadian Polish Congress against The Toronto Star, the council says articles should make that fact clear either through context or at least one specific reference.

The congress cited a number of stories published in The Star which it felt were not precise enough in references to concentration camps.

It noted that while The Star had corrected some obvious ambiguities it did not do so in the case of a June 3 Jerusalem story that said John Demjanjuk, accused of war crimes, was in "the Sobibor death camp in Poland and the Flossenburg concentration camp in Germany in March, 1943."

"There is no explicit reference anywhere in this lengthy article making it clear that we are dealing with German-occupied Poland," the congress said in its letter of complaint.

"Since the Nazis were found in many European countries, and now that 50 years have elapsed since World War II started, many readers, especially the younger ones and those of a non-European background, might well not be familiar with those historical events."

The Star said a term such as "Polish death camp" would be obviously misleading but it was not inaccurate to write "death camp in Poland." It added that the reference to Sobibor was incidental to the main thrust of the story and maintained that appearance of the word "Nazi" in several paragraphs provided adequate context for the Sobibor reference.

The Press Council, instead of upholding the specific complaint, chose to make what it regarded as a positive recommendation about how it believes newspaper should deal with concentration camp references.

Text of the adjudication:

The Toronto Star, responding to a complaint by the Canadian Polish Congress, agreed it would be wrong to use a term such as "Polish concentration camp" since such camps were established and operated by the Nazis in occupied Poland during World War II. But it maintained that there was nothing incorrect about a reference such as "the Sobibor death camp in Poland." The Congress insisted that it should always be made clear the camps were Nazi-operated.

The Ontario Press Council, noting some references may be incomplete but not clearly inaccurate, declines to uphold the complaint in respect to a June 3 Jerusalem article about the John Demjanjuk war crimes case.

But it believes the issue is significant, that the sensitivities of the Polish community are important, and that 47 years after the end of the war there are many Canadians who have little or no knowledge about the death camps in Poland.

It suggests, therefore, that to avoid misunderstanding, either the context or at least one reference in any article about the camps should leave no doubt the Nazi occupiers set them up and operated them.

POSTSCRIPT
New name of Auschwitz

Christchurch, New Zealand 

On 27 June 2007 the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO has decided to approve Poland's request to change the name of Auschwitz on UNESCO's World Heritage List. Auschwitz now will be known as "Auschwitz-Birkenau. German Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp (1940-1945)," said Roni Amelan, a spokesman for the Committee. Previously the camp was listed on UNESCO's world heritage registry as the "Auschwitz Concentration Camp."

In its decision the Committee meeting in Christchurch, New Zealand, for its 31st session, also adopted a "statement of significance' for the site which reads as follows:

"Auschwitz-Birkenau was the principal and most notorious of the six concentration and extermination camps established by Nazi Germany to implement its Final Solution policy which had as its aim the mass murder of the Jewish people in Europe. Built in Poland under Nazi German occupation initially as a concentration camp for Poles and later for Soviet prisoners of war, it soon became a prison for a number of other nationalities. Between the years 1942-1944 it became the main mass extermination camp where Jews were tortured and killed for their so-called racial origins. In addition to the mass murder of well over a million Jewish men, women and children, and tens of thousands of Polish victims, Auschwitz also served as a camp for the racial murder of thousands of Roma and Sinti and prisoners of several European nationalities”.

Poland requested the change to ensure that future generations understand it had no role in the camp established by Adolf Hitler's forces during their brutal occupation of the country. Polish officials have complained that Auschwitz is sometimes referred to as a "Polish concentration camp," a phrase they fear may be misleading to younger generations who may not associate the camp with Nazi Germany.

"Unesco has made a decision as a result of Poland's request to change the name of Auschwitz Birkenau to reflect the historical truth," said Kazimierz Ujazdowski Polish Minister of Culture and National Heritage with the Israeli ambassador at his side. "This is a victory for truth".

German forces occupying Poland set up Auschwitz in southern Poland in 1940 as a labour camp for Polish prisoners, gradually expanding it into a vast labour and death camp that became the centrepiece of their plans to kill all European Jews. Between 1.2 and 1.5 million people died there, most of them Jews. Polish political prisoners, Soviet prisoners of war, Gypsies, homosexuals, people with disabilities and prisoners of conscience or religious faith were also killed.



The camp was made a World Heritage site by the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in 1979.


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