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February 17, 2016

Don’t ever say or write the words “Polish death camp”

Filed under: Holocaust, World War II — furtherglory @ 6:32 am
My photo of the ruins of Krema III at Auschwitz-Birkenau

My 2007 photo of the ruins of Krema III at Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camp

The Auschwitz Museum now offers an App to halt the use of the term “Polish death camps”. You can read all about it in this news article:

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum acknowledges that only six of the Nazi camps were “death camps”: Auschwitz, Majdanek, Treblinka, Sobibor, Belzec, and Chelmno, all of which are in what is now Poland. Nevertheless, a few people still call all of the Nazi camps “death camps.” Prisoners died in all of the concentration camps.

The following quote is from the news article, cited above:

Begin quote

After Poland called to punish those who use the term “Polish death camps” in reference to the wartime Nazi death camps on Polish soil, the museum at Auschwitz launched software that will help remove the term, which Poland says attributes responsibility for the Nazi crimes to the country.

On Tuesday, the website for the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial Museum unveiled the “Remember” software which helps replaces “Polish death camp” with “Nazi death camp.”

“A special application ‘Remember’ is to help avoid the use of the term ‘Polish concentration camps’ or ‘Polish death camps’ in 16 languages. The program, which can be installed on a personal computer searches for a false phrase, underlines it and suggests the appropriate wording,” the museum explained on its Facebook page.

End quote

Monument at Sobibor a famous death camp in Poland

Two monuments at Sobibor, a famous death camp in Poland

This controversy is nothing new.  The Poles have been complaining about the use of the term “Polish death camps” for years.  These were “death camps” set up by the Germans in what is now the country of Poland, but the Poles had nothing to do with the camps, which were run by the Germans. The innocent Poles do not want to be lumped in with the German murderers. Who can blame them for wanting to distance themselves from the Germans?

In June 2007, the United Nations officially changed the collective name of the three Auschwitz camps to “Auschwitz-Birkenau, German Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp (1940-1945)” in response to complaints by the Poles that Auschwitz was being described as a “Polish death camp.”

The area of Europe that was inhabited by the German tribes in the Middle Ages became the Holy Roman Empire in the year 800 and by 1270, the Empire had expanded to include the area known as Upper Silesia, where Auschwitz was located. In 1457, Auschwitz became part of the Kingdom of Poland and it was then known by the Polish name Oswiecim.

Most of Silesia was annexed to the German state of Prussia in 1742, except for four duchies. The duchy of Auschwitz was annexed to Galicia, a province which was given to Austria when Poland lost its independence in 1772 and the country was divided between Russia, Prussia and Austria.

Western Galicia soon became known as The Corner of Three Empires: Russia, Prussia and Austria. The town known as Auschwitz, or Oswiecim or Oshpitzin, became a prime location for Jewish traders or merchants during the time that Galicia was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire.

In 1871, Prussia and the other German states, except Austria, united into the country of Germany. After the defeat of Germany and Austria in World War I, Galicia and the industrial area known as Upper Silesia were given to Poland. In 1939, after the joint conquest of Poland by Germany and the Soviet Union, Upper Silesia was annexed into the Greater German Reich, which at that time consisted of Germany, Austria and the Sudetenland in what is now the Czech Republic.

Both Buchenwald and Auschwitz were called concentration camps (Konzentrationslager) by the Nazis but both were called extermination camps (Vernichtungslager) by the Allies during the war and in the immediate aftermath of the war.

Jews were sent to both Buchenwald and Auschwitz, but both camps had non-Jewish prisoners as well. Both camps had SS soldiers as guards and administrators, and both were under the jurisdiction of the Inspectorate in Oranienburg.

Both Buchenwald and Auschwitz were within the 1939 borders of Germany, which was then known as Grossdeutschland. Auschwitz is now in Poland, but it was in Grossdeutschland when the camp was opened in June 1940.

The SS guards abandoned Auschwitz on January 18, 1945 and marched the prisoners to the German border where they were put on trains and taken to other camps. Those who chose not to join the march stayed at Auschwitz where they were free to leave, but most of the prisoners decided to wait for the Soviet Army to find the camp on January 27, 1945.

Auschwitz survivor

Auschwitz survivor

The prisoners at Buchenwald were free at 3:15 p.m. on April 11, 1945 after the Communist prisoners took control of the camp and the SS guards escaped into the woods. The first American soldiers in General Patton’s Third Army arrived at Buchenwald around two hours later that same day.

Buchenwald had a main camp and around 100 sub-camps; Auschwitz consisted of three separate camps, called Auschwitz, Birkenau and Monowitz, and 40 sub-camps.

Both Buchenwald and Auschwitz had factories where the prisoners worked and these factories were considered to be essential to the German war effort. The factories at both Buchenwald and Auschwitz were bombed by the Allies.

Both Buchenwald and Auschwitz had child survivors. There were 900 children under the age of 18 at Buchenwald and 600 child survivors in the abandoned Auschwitz camp.

According to testimony at the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal, both Buchenwald and Auschwitz had gas chambers. Both Buchenwald and Auschwitz also had typhus epidemics which accounted for the lives of thousands of the prisoners.

After Auschwitz was opened in 1940, some of the prisoners from Buchenwald were transferred there. When Auschwitz was abandoned in January 1945, some of the prisoners were transported back to Buchenwald.

Both Buchenwald and Auschwitz were in the Soviet zone after World War II ended, and Museums were set up at both camps by the Soviets.

So what’s the big difference between Buchenwald and Auschwitz?

The difference is that today the Auschwitz II camp, aka Birkenau, has been designated a “death camp” by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, while Buchenwald is now officially called a concentration camp.

Child Survivors of Auschwitz-Birkenau

Child Survivors of Auschwitz-Birkenau

When Jewish prisoners arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau, beginning in February 1942, they went through a selection process in which those who were able to work were saved while the others were destined for the gas chamber. Today, no one claims that Buchenwald had a gas chamber, nor that there was a selection process for Jewish prisoners at Buchenwald.

The Communist survivors of Buchenwald estimated 56,000 prisoners died at Buchenwald and the latest estimate of the deaths at Auschwitz-Birkenau is 1.1 million, of whom 90% were Jews.

No Jews were sent to any Nazi camp, solely because they were Jewish, until November 10, 1938 when 10,000 Jewish men were sent to Buchenwald following the pogrom in Germany, known as Kristallnacht. An equal number of Jewish men were sent on November 10, 1938 to Dachau and Sachsenhausen, the other two main concentration camps in Germany. They were released within a few weeks if they promised to leave Germany.

It was not until February 1942 that all the Jews in Germany and Poland were rounded up and sent to concentration camps in what is now Poland. Before that, persons who were considered to be the enemies of the German Reich were sent to concentration camps, regardless of their ethnicity, race or religion, including a few Jews.

In January 1941, Buchenwald was classified as a Class II camp where prisoners were less likely to be released than at Dachau and Sachsenhausen, which were Class I camps. The main Auschwitz camp was a Class I camp, mainly for political prisoners, and 1,500 non-Jewish prisoners were released from there, according to the Auschwitz Museum.

In my humble opinion, the Poles are making too much of this.


  1. Talking of Poland, we haven’t heard anything lately about this German train, which – back in early 1945 – allegedly got stuck inside a tunnel somewhere in south-west Poland. Just a few months back, the holocausters were all in a frenzy, salivating in delight at the prospect of the train containing treasure – especially gold teeth – that once belonged to the Jewish victims of the “Nazi genocide.”

    I had visions of all these Hassidic Jews, surrounded by their digging equipment, miner’s helmets, lamps, canary cages, pick-axes and shovels, sitting patiently in the airport departure lounges at Tel-Aviv, Heathrow, New York and Chicago, waiting for their flights to Warsaw and Krakow. But everything seems to have gone quiet since then, leaving the eager would-be miners to drift back sorrowfully to their synagogues to immerse themselves once more in the ancient Torah and Talmud.

    The Polish government gravely announced that anything found on the train would be returned to its rightful owners or their legitimate heirs. This is very admirable of course, but one can’t help having a chuckle at the prospect that the train might not be carrying any gold, diamonds, art works etc. – but instead be packed to the roofs with bales of female hair, shrunken heads, pelvic ashtrays, human lampshades, tattooed skin handbags and pure Jewish soap.

    So, imagine that you are sitting down for your breakfast one morning, munching away on your genetically-modified cornflakes, to hear a ding-dong at the front door where a delivery man from DHL hands you a couple of packages sent first-class express from Poland – one containing your old Uncle Shlumie’s shrunken head, and the other – half a dozen bars of soap boiled down from the fat of poor Aunt Miriam.

    Comment by Talbot — February 17, 2016 @ 4:11 pm

  2. the Poles are making too much of this

    I think some Poles also resent the fact that, in their view, Jews have co-opted, or tried to co-opt, Auschwitz as a place where, almost uniquely, Jews were persecuted (and murdered).

    Comment by eah — February 17, 2016 @ 10:20 am

    • The Poles want the town of Auschwitz to be called by its Polish name. I wrote about this on this blog post:

      Comment by furtherglory — February 17, 2016 @ 10:51 am

      • I went back and read the piece you wrote that you provided the link for. The “Mexico Section”. Does that have anything to do with Mexico? I know the Krauts tried to talk Mexico into invading the U S. Sam Houston kicked the shit outta Santa Anna and his boys. I don’t think Mexico wanted a repeat of that ass kickin. What’s up with the UN renaming the place? Other countries get to decide what to call the place. The UN is worthless as hell. We can’t even fart on foreign soil without a nod from them. The only other nation that is equally worthless is NATO.

        Comment by Tim — February 17, 2016 @ 12:06 pm

      • I was also thinking about Catholics v Jews — Poland is a very Catholic country, and they would like a lot more (international) attention paid to eg the Nazi persecution of the Catholic Church and priests in Poland during WWII, including at Auschwitz: At least 1811 Polish clergy died in Nazi Concentration Camps. An estimated 3000 clergy were killed in all.

        Comment by eah — February 18, 2016 @ 4:43 am

    • Poland turned the place of horror Auschwitz in a tourist center and set up the TOURISM DIVISION of the Shoah Business.

      Comment by Wolf Murmelstein — February 19, 2016 @ 7:53 am

      • When I first went to Auschwitz in 1998, I was the only tourist there. I had to hire a private guide from a Tour company in New York City, who showed me around. My tour guide lived in Poland; she spoke Polish, English and German. On my trip in 1998, I did not encounter any Polish person who could speak English. My guide accompanied me everywhere — to restaurants and stores and to my hotel. Another tour guide met me at the airport in Poland and took me to the train to the town of Auschwitz, where another guide met me and took me to my hotel, where no one spoke English. What a change today when 1.5 million people visit Auschwitz every year.

        Comment by furtherglory — February 19, 2016 @ 8:39 am

  3. One can understand Poland’s frustration and annoyance at people calling Auschwitz etc. as “Polish Death Camps” – but to my mind it doesn’t matter if they called them German death camps, Chinese death camps, or even Eskimo death camps. The fact is, these places were never designed for extermination purposes, and didn’t operate in such a way during the entire duration of their existence.

    The Polish government knows this full well, and has kept it all hushed up for decades. But it suits their national and political interests to perpetuate the death camp myth, and so it is perhaps ironic – and with a well-deserved kick in the butt – that the world has started referring to them as “Polish Death Camps.”

    Comment by Talbot — February 17, 2016 @ 9:57 am

  4. History wants us to believe hitler wanted every Jew dead. If that’s the case and the nazis were such hardasses,why would they cut all these people loose. Leave the country and all is forgotten. That dont make sense.

    Comment by Tim — February 17, 2016 @ 8:05 am

  5. Auschwitz was not in the pre-Sept 1939 borders of Grossdeutschland. Prior to the Treaty of St Germain it was in Austria, not Germany. It was not a part of Eastern Upper Silesia…

    Comment by Schlageter — February 17, 2016 @ 7:34 am

    • Thanks for the information. I made a mistake on my blog post, which I have now corrected.

      Comment by furtherglory — February 17, 2016 @ 7:48 am

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