David Frum

05.29.12

An Insult to the Living and the Dead

poland

This is just awful. President Obama today bestowed a posthumous Medal of Freedom to Jan Karski, the courier from Warsaw who tried to alert an indifferent world—including an indifferent United States—to the reality of Nazi death camps operating on the soil of conquered and occupied Poland.

And what did the President say? He then referenced, in his phrase, "a Polish death camp"—as if Auschwitz were a Polish project. The ignorant phrase is a terrible insult to a people who suffered much in those terrible years. Whoever was responsible for honoring the late Jan Karski ought to have known enough and cared enough about his mission to have avoided this ignorant error.

Update: The White House has apologized for the "Polish death camp" reference.

National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said: "The president misspoke. He was referring to Nazi death camps in Poland. We regret this misstatement, which should not detract from the clear intention to honor Mr. Karski and those brave citizens who stood on the side of human dignity in the face of tyranny."