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  • German camps in occupied Poland during World War II: A How-To Guide for the members of the Polish community and journalists covering this topic   


    “Concentration camps. Given the sensitivity of this topic, take extra care in historical references to the Nazi concentration camps of World War II. For camps in countries occupied by Nazi Germany avoid ambiguous or misleading phrases like ‘Polish concentration camp” or “Polish death camp”, which could give the mistaken impression that the camps were run by Poland”. – New York Times Manual of Style and Usage.


    “It is a historical error when news agencies reporting about the Auschwitz concentration camp in Nazi German-occupied Poland call it a ‘Polish concentration camp. – Rep. Chris Smith, Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, Press Release, July 29, 2011, (



    The occurrence of factually incorrect terms in news articles is ubiquitous. The historically erroneous terms as "Polish concentration camp" and "Polish death camp" to describe camps built by the Germans during World War II confuse readers and lead them to believe that the Holocaust was executed by Poland, rather than Germany.


    On some occasions the media coverage is more extensive than usually – e.g. death of famous guard or victim of a concentration camp, anniversary of the liberation of a concentration camp or premiere of a book or a film about the Holocaust. Pre-emptive measures can be taken, such as monitoring the media and internet for Holocaust-related content more often than usually, searching for key-words in Google News on your own or asking familiar journalists about their publishing plans, having a universal protest letter in store and an updated list of contacts to the most important media outlets.


    A list of most common errrors:

    • Polish concentration camp
    • Polish death camp, Polish death house/s
    • Polish extermination camp
    • Polish gas chambers
    • Polish death factory
    • Polish Holocaust
    • Polish ghettos
    • Polish Nazis
    • Polish genocide
    • Polish mass-murder
    • Polish war crimes
    • Polish crimes against humanity
    • Polish war criminals
    • Polish contribution to Holocaust
    • Polish SS, Polish SS- divisions
    • Polish Auschwitz
    • Nazi Poland
    • Polish internment camp
    • Polish labor/labour camp, Polish forced labor camp
    • Polish genocide of the Jews
    • Polish Gestapo
    • concentration/death/… camps in Poland


    Once you see a defective code of memory published in the media:


    1. Remember, that:
    • The camps were not located in Poland, they were located in German-occupied Poland. That's a very important distinction. The camps were German, located on an occupied Polish territory against the will of Poles during the World War II., set up by German authorities to carry out Hitler’s plan to murder many Polish citizens, among them about 3 million Polish Jews.
    • Poles fought the German invasion from day one of World War II until its very end, and paid an enormous price with the loss of six million human lives and massive destruction of the country. Poland was the only country whose citizens suffered the death penalty for rescuing Jews.
    1. Gather information and facts. Copy the article, note down its author, title, publication date and defective code of memory.
    2. Check the comments section. If the phrase is literally, not only contextually, plain wrong, we can safely assume that at least one of the readers leaves a comment calling for an amendment. You can be this first person! Give 1-2 strong fact-based, not opinion-based, arguments why a certain phrase is inaccurate. Don’t forget to include a request for correction in your comment.

    Example 1: Calling Majdanek a “Polish death camp" is factually incorrect. There were no Polish death camps, there were only German Nazi death camps. Please correct this error immediately.


    Example 2: Calling the German camps "Polish" is incorrect for two reasons: The camps were set up and run by German Reich, not Poland. It is also unacceptable to use the word "Polish" as a geographical descriptor because there was no Polish state at the time the camps existed. The territory, on which the camps were located, had been invaded and remained occupied by Nazi Germany throughout the entirety of the camps' operation. I would appreciate the immediate removal of the phrase " Polish death camp" online and wherever else it may appear.


    1. Refer to the style guides of renowned media. The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, Yahoo! Inc., and The Associated Press have changed their style guides prohibiting the use of the phrase “Polish concentration camps”.
    2. Send an email to the editor and encourage others to do the same. Post links on Facebook; tweet about it. Tell us about the article, what you’ve done and how can we help.
    3. After a few days check whether the phrase has been updated. If not, do a follow-up: send another email, make another phone call, inform us about the chain of events.
    4. Should you have any further doubts or questions, do not hesitate to contact the Polish MFA:


    enlightened We also encourage you to get acquainted with the “How-To Guide” published by the Poland in Washington, DC. >>>>>

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