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Sapa-AFP

President Barack Obama has expressed "regret" at his inadvertent use of the erroneous term "Polish death camp" in a letter to his Polish counterpart.

“I regret the error and agree that this moment is an opportunity to ensure that this and future generations know the truth,” Obama wrote to Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski in the letter dated May 31.

Obama on Tuesday labeled a World War II Nazi German facility used to process Jews for extermination a “Polish death camp”. The White House later said the president misspoke and expressed “regret”.

Polish leaders termed the error “hurtful” and said it required more than a mere expression of regret.

The linguistic faux pas overshadowed Obama’s posthumous award of the highest US civilian honour, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, to Jan Karski, a Polish underground officer who provided the Allies with early eyewitness accounts of Nazi Germany’s genocide against European Jews.

Making the letter public on Friday, Komorowski - who on Wednesday publicly urged Obama to cooperate in “correcting this unfortunate error” - said he was satisfied with the “rapid” expression of regret by “our important ally and good friend”.

Obama specified “there were simply no Polish death camps” in the letter to Komorowski.

He admitted to “inadvertently” using the phrase “rather than ‘a Nazi death camp in German-occupied Poland.’”

“The killing centres at Auschwitz-Birkenau, Belzec, Treblinka, and elsewhere in occupied Poland were built and operated by the Nazi regime. In contrast, many Poles risked their lives - and gave their lives - to save Jews from the Holocaust,” Obama wrote.

“The Polish people suffered terribly under the brutal Nazi occupation during World War II,” he noted.

“In pursuit of destroying the Polish nation and Polish culture and extermination European Jewry, the Nazi killed some six million Polish citizens, including three million Polish Jews during the Holocaust,” he added.

Poland’s government keenly watches the global media for descriptions of former Nazi German death camps as “Polish” because it says the term - even if used simply as a geographical indicator - can give the impression that Poland bore responsibility for the Holocaust. – Sapa-AFP

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