Obama is in hot water with Poland today. Yesterday, while awarding the Medal of Freedom to Jan Karski, a resistance fighter against the Nazi’s during World War II, Obama misspoke. In the East Room, Obama said that Karski, “served as a courier for the Polish resistance during the darkest days of World War II. 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. Jan took that information to President Franklin Roosevelt, giving one of the first accounts of the Holocaust and imploring to the world to take action.”
Up in arms, many Poles were furious yesterday with his remark. As Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorsky said, it was a matter of “ignorance and incompetence.” The president of the Kosciuszko Foundation said that the comments
“shocked the Poles present at the White House and those watching on C-SPAN. … Karski would have cringed if he heard this.”
Trying to step in to temper the damage, Tommy Vietor as the National Security Council spokesman 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.”
Obama (or his speech writers) might have been well served doing a bit of research before opening his mouth yesterday. The Polish Embassy in Washington has gone to the trouble on its website to include a guide on concentration camps that points out that calling the camps “Polish death camps” is actually “factually incorrect slurs.”
Oich. Obama will now spend a few days climbing out of this mishap and trying to appease angry Poles in his midst.