The fierce reaction emanating from the world stage in reaction to Poland’s decision to challenge the term “Polish death camps” is indeed quite curious. While matters pertaining to historical memory are often laden with complexities, the Polish government was absolutely right to challenge this controversial term.
While the Nazi extermination camps were located primarily in Poland, they were the creations of the warped minds that ruled Nazi Germany. Adolf Hitler spewed his venom against the Jewish people for years, and his sycophantic followers developed factories of torture and death to help implement the fuhrer’s monstrous vision. The ones that designed and created these camps were Germans, not Poles. In fact, the people of Poland were viewed as being subhuman by the Germans and the entire Polish nation suffered tremendously during the Nazi occupation.
The use of the term “Polish death camps” does a great disservice to the memory of the Holocaust. While the more well-versed individual may be aware of the complex history of that tragic episode, a casual observer would jump to the wrong conclusions. The term hints and implies that the Polish people ran the camps, when the reality was quite the opposite.
The government of Poland has taken the right step by challenging this term. Words matter, and it is time we call a spade a spade when discussing the extermination camps used by the Nazis. They were Nazi death camps, not Polish death camps. Geographical location does not equate to ownership. It is time that the term “Polish death camps” be removed from our lexicons and instead be replaced with the term “Nazi death camps.” This reflects the actual reality of what transpired during those horrific years during the 1940s.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.