Statement on Poland and the Auschwitz Commemoration

January 30, 2005

January 30, 2005 -  New York - American Jewish Committee Executive Director David A. Harris issued the following statement today:

The American Jewish Committee wishes to express appreciation to Poland for hosting the commemorative event to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, and gratitude to Polish President Alexander Kwasniewski for his eloquent and stirring words at the ceremony.

We would also like to remind those who are either unaware of the facts or careless in their choice of words, as has been the case with some media outlets, that Auschwitz-Birkenau and the other death camps, including Belzec, Chelmno, Majdanek, Sobibor and Treblinka, were conceived, built and operated by Nazi Germany and its allies.

The camps were located in German-occupied Poland, the European country with by far the largest Jewish population, but they were most emphatically not "Polish camps".

This is not a mere semantic matter. Historical integrity and accuracy hang in the balance.

Poland was the first nation attacked by the Third Reich, which ignited the Second World War on September 1, 1939. Polish forces fought valiantly, but were overwhelmed by the larger and better equipped Nazi army that invaded from the west, and then by the Soviet army, an ally of Hitler at the time, which attacked from the east. Nonetheless, Polish forces in exile continued the struggle against Hitler, together, of course, with other Allied troops, until the war's end. And it should also never be forgotten that, in addition to Polish Jews, who were targeted for total annihilation by the Nazi Final Solution, other Poles, including political prisoners such as Professor Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, who spoke so movingly at Auschwitz on January 27, and who was a key figure in the Polish underground, were also seized by the Nazis and incarcerated in concentration camps.

Any misrepresentation of Poland's role in the Second World War, whether intentional or accidental, would be most regrettable and therefore should not be left unchallenged.

New York, January 30, 2005

Contact: Kenneth Bandler (212) 891-6771

        Lisa Fingeret Roth (212) 891-1385
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