|"Slight: Mr Obama made the remark when he presented former Polish foreign minister Adam Rotfeld (left) with the posthumously-awarded medal at a White House ceremony Tuesday."|
Daily Mail, May 30, 2012
"President Obama made a factually inaccurate and offensive gaffe Tuesday when he referred to 'Polish death camps' while praising a World War II hero. Even though he issued an apology shortly after the statement, the Polish prime minister said Wednesday that he wasn't completely satisfied with a White House explanation that the President simply misspoke, saying he wants a 'stronger, more pointed' response. The phrasing is considered hugely offensive in Poland, where Nazi Germany murdered Poles, Jews and others in death camps it built during World War II on Polish and German territory. Poles have responded with outrage, maintaining Mr. Obama should have called it a 'German death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland,' to distinguish the perpetrators from the location. Prime Minister Donald Tusk said he was accepting a White House explanation that Mr. Obama misspoke but was still waiting for a 'stronger, more pointed reaction' that could eliminate the phrasing 'once and for all.' 'We always react in the same way when ignorance, lack of knowledge, bad intentions lead to such a distortion of history, so painful for us here in Poland, in a country which suffered like no other in Europe during World War II,' Mr. Tusk said in his statement. 'We cannot accept such words even if they are spoken by the leader of a friendly power -- or perhaps especially in such situations -- since we expect diligence, care and respect from our friend on issues of such importance as World War II remembrance.'
The Polish foreign minister Radek Sikorski tweeted his disappointment last night with the White House apology, saying that Mr. Tusk would give a more thorough reaction this morning. 'It's a shame that this important ceremony was overshadowed by ignorance and incompetence,' he wrote. Turning the problem around, Mr. Tusk said it was a 'matter of the U.S.'s reputation.' He hinted that the second version of the apology should include facts about Nazi Germany's brutal occupation of Poland. Former President and Solidarity founder Lech Walesa said the phrase confused henchmen with their victims but the silver lining is that Mr. Obama's mistake might prevent similar statements by others. The White House said the President misspoke Tuesday in bestowing the Medal of Freedom posthumously on Jan Kozielewski, alias Karski, a Polish emissary who in 1943 alerted Allied leaders to mass killing of Jews. In order to gather first-hand evidence, the National Medal of Freedom honoree risked his life and was secretly smuggled into the Warsaw Ghetto and a death camp. Anxious to quell the controversy, the White House also noted that the President had visited the Warsaw Ghetto Memorial while in Poland and that he has repeatedly discussed the bravery of Poles during World War II."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch. Thanks to Jo Jones for bringing it to my attention.]