Use Obama ‘Polish camps’ gaffe to tell the truth, says Walesa

The storm over US President Barack Obama’s label “Polish camp” for a Nazi German Holocaust site is an ideal moment to halt lies about the Holocaust, Poland’s ex-leader Lech Walesa said Wednesday.

“This is a golden occasion to end this once and for all. Let’s use this chance to stop this from happening again around the world,” the communist-era dissident leader who later served as Poland’s president told the rolling news channel TNV24.

The White House has moved to try to head off a diplomatic spat with Poland, with Tommy Vietor, a spokesperson for Obama’s National Security Council, saying the president “misspoke”.

“He was referring to Nazi death camps in Poland,” Vietor said.

“We regret this misstatement, which should not detract from the clear intention to honour Mr Karski and those brave citizens who stood on the side of human dignity in the face of tyranny.”

The linguistic faux pas overshadowed Tuesday’s posthumous award by Obama of America’s highest civilian honour, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, to Jan Karski, a Polish resistance member who provided early eyewitness accounts of the Holocaust during the World War II Nazi occupation.

“Before one trip across enemy lines, resistance fighters told him that Jews were being murdered on a massive scale, and smuggled him into the Warsaw Ghetto and a Polish death camp to see for himself,” Obama said.

Underscoring Poland’s outrage, Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski earlier said on microblogging site Twitter that it was an “overwhelming mistake.”

“It’s a shame that ignorance and incompetence cast a shadow over this solemn occasion,” he wrote. – AFP

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