The phrase “Polish death camps” has a xenophobic undercurrent and defames Poland, the country worst affected by the barbarous policies of Germany. The term suggests that Polish people were responsible for the crimes committed in German concentration camps.
What was the truth? The Polish state was never involved in establishing the camp network, never administered it and never derived any benefits from it. Throughout World War II, Poland refused to collaborate with Germany and was always in the Allied Forces coalition.
It is Germany and not Poland that administered the areas in which the concentration camps were established. Set up by the Germans in occupied Poland, the camps were operated by the SS, a military formation that would never have admitted any Poles to their ranks. The fact that memorials to German concentration camps are located in today’s Poland does not justify those who, unwittingly or not, use phrases such as “Polish concentration camps”.
Auschwitz-Birkenau, which remains the symbol of German atrocities, was set up with the intent to exterminate Polish citizens. Right from the outset, the legitimate Polish authorities gave the alarm to the public worldwide about the tragedy happening in the camps. The heroic mission of the Polish cavalryman, Witold Pilecki, who volunteered to become an Auschwitz prisoner, provoked little to no reaction from the Allies.
Many Polish people showed exceptional valour in the face of the mass extermination industry created by the SS in the network of German concentration camps. They stood up to the evil and paid the ultimate price. One such heroic martyr was Saint Maksymilian Kolbe, a monk who died in terrible circumstances when he gave up his life to save a fellow inmate.
Those who suggest that Poland was complicit in the German mass extermination program by using the term “Polish death camps” commit a hate crime against the Poles. Survivors of the German concentration camps are particularly affected by this phenomenon. The victims of German pseudo-medical experiments and the Polish resistance fighters who risked their lives to fight the German invaders and who were incarcerated in these camps as a result of their bravery, still live in Poland. Concentration camp survivors went through a veritable hell on earth. Despite their age or ill health, they still bear witness to these tragic events. The duty of each and every one of us is to pass on their testimony.
Photo by Andrzej Banaś
Photo by Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and State Museum
The Polish state was never involved in establishing the camp network, never administered it and never derived any benefits from it. Throughout World War II, Poland refused to collaborate with Germany and was always in the Allied Forces coalition.