May 30th, 2012
10:18 AM ET

Words at medal ceremony causes trouble with Poland

By CNN's Bob Kovach

(CNN) - The White House was in damage control Tuesday evening after words that President Obama used at a ceremony honoring 12 Americans with the Medal of Freedom sparked outrage.

The trouble came when he paid tribute to Jan Karski, the former Polish officer who escaped Nazi imprisonment and provided firsthand accounts to the Western Allies of atrocities. Karski received the award posthumously.

"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," Obama said.

The president's use of the term "Polish death camp" rather than Nazi death camp in Poland angered the Polish foreign minister, Radek Sikorski.

Sikorski tweeted: "White House apologizes for outrageous blunder. PM (prime minister) Tusk will take his position in the morning. It's a shame that this important ceremony was overshadowed by ignorance and incompetence."

The White House issued a statement from National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor on the president's wrong word choice.

"The President misspoke – he was referring to Nazi death camps in Poland," the statement said. "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 has spoken of the bravery of Poles during World War II in past speeches. Last year, he visited the Warsaw Ghetto Memorial that honors those who perished in the Holocaust.

soundoff (141 Responses)
  1. Joe

    It was a pre-written speech!
    And the more the White House says the word misspoke, the more incompetent it looks.

    May 30, 2012 at 10:40 am |
    • MP

      My point exactly – how do you misspeak while reading from the teleprompter? This guy would read "buy a Toyota!" during the state of the union address if it was on the teleprompter. This Nov. he will not have my vote – he's an empty suit IMO.

      May 30, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
      • Teresa

        Of the pair of "empty suits" running for president I'll take the one that wants everyone to have a fair chance and won't take us directly into another empty war.

        May 31, 2012 at 8:48 am |
      • citizenvoter

        yep ... he's a puppet !

        May 31, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
    • darren

      I am not gonna vote for you Obama .You are ignorant without a class.Poles wiped out Indians in USA too? My Mom was in Aschwitz . According too her was a gereman camp not polish , She was polish-jew. Citizen of Poland

      May 31, 2012 at 3:03 am |
      • probably a former Democrat

        And Mr. Obama... How would you feel if the terrorist attacks on WTC were called American just because they took place in NYC? Geographically?!

        May 31, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
      • Henry from Poland

        You are absolutelly right, bravo. My familly during the II World War saved two young Jews boys.

        May 31, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
    • Vox

      No offense, but average american teenager doesn't know much about history of Europe( WWII included). For them "polish death camp" means that it was run by Poles. It's a matter of historical truth and nothing else. I dont want to explain peepole that Poland didn't start WWII. We must not forget who is responsible for holocaust – nazi Germany. So – there should be no geographical reference. German death camp or nazi death camp are not the same as polish death camps. President should know this.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:05 am |
      • barabara

        so true!

        June 1, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
      • Peter

        Thank you for your remarks. I have now read the response from President Obama to President Komorowski, which one can download from the web site of the President of Poland. President Obama's letter is quite nice and addresses the immediate concern, but the issue remains, since the letter should have been addressed to us in the US (people in Poland must know their own history and do not need to be explained what happened during World War II). The words chosen by President Obama to the President of Poland are still lacking a clear identification of Germany as a state that was behind the atrocities in the occupied Poland. The term "Nazi death camp" is not the same as the term "Nazi-German death camp" or the "camp built by Nazi Germany", which are more direct and unambiguous. In my view, the dissociation of the words "Germany", "German", etc. from "Nazi", when one continues to use "occupied Poland", "Polish", etc. may lead, after repeated use, to a situation where an average person who does not live in Poland or Europe gets sometimes confused about who did what and to whom. The concentration camps were designed by Germany, built by Germany, and operated by Germany. Surely, Germans managed to find a few locals here and there as their "employees" in their institutions of oppression, but people of this kind were often recognized as traitors by, for example, the Polish underground resistance army (Armia Krajowa). In Israel, in Yad Vashem, Poles are recognized as people who helped Jews most and helping Jews in Poland was particularly risky, since one was risking life of their own and their family by doing so. The German occupation of Poland was particularly brutal, so it is troubling to have the US President representing us in America to use the phrase "Polish death camp", which clearly confuses murderers with their victims. I think there is no point in hiding the role of Germany and Germans in World War II, since Germans themselves recognize it, understand it, and have done a lot to help the nations that suffered from Hitler during World War II (and, in some cases, years that led to it). For example, when the US freed Kuwait from the Iraqi occupation about 20 years ago, which was a good thing to do, we do not say that Republicans freed Kuwait. The United States did the work, with the help of several other nations. It does not matter who the President is and what political party is in power in such situations. Hitler and the Nazi party that he was a leader of acted on behalf of Germany during World War II and years that led to it.

        Indeed, the entire issue is related to problems with education, particularly (but probably not only) in high schools. The words "Germany", "German", etc. in textbooks used in schools are often replaced by "Nazi" in describing the atrocities conducted by the German government agencies, German people, and German military between 1939 and 1945, so a young student in the US school system, with all good intentions that children have when trying to learn the new material, may not fully appreciate who exactly was behind the atrocities. World War II is to these young people something ancient and remote, historically and geographically, so using the word "Nazi" instead of "German" often confuses the discussion in young person's mind. I am now looking at the history textbook used in the high school in our school district in the 10th grade. In section entitled "The Nazis Commit Genocide" there are sentences, such as "To accomplish this goal, Hitler had six special "death camps" built in Poland", followed by "The Nazis shipped "undesirables" from all over occupied Europe to the camps" and "There, Nazi engineers designed the most efficient means of killing millions of men, women, and children". The words "Germany", "Germans", etc. are not used, but the words such as "occupied Poland" are used. A few paragraphs below, one can read "In some cases, friends, neighbors, or strangers protected Jews. Italian peasants hid Jews in their villages. Denmark and Bulgaria saved almost all their Jewish populations", without mentioning Poles (who are recognized by Yad Vashem as the people helping Jews most) and then, a few pages later, in section, "Occupying Allies", we read "The war crimes trials further discredited the totalitarian ideologies that had led to the war. Yet disturbing questions remained. Why had ordinary people in Germany, Poland, France, and elsewhere accepted – and even collaborated in Hitler's "Final Solution"?". After reading this material, what do you think a young person will learn? What will the history teacher, who is not necessarily a person with a college degree in the European or World history, do? They may get an impression that some abstract Nazi's from Germany and elsewhere, including their collaborators in Poland and France, built concentration camps in Poland, where they killed millions of Jews. They will also learn that Jews were rescued primarily by the Italians, Danish, and Bulgarians in a situation where Poles and French mostly collaborated with Hitler. With due and deep respect to every person from every nation in the world who helped Jews and others survive World War II, it is enough to look at the Yad Vashem statistics to see that omitting Poles makes no sense. There is also a table in the same textbook used in our high school with casualties of World War II. We find there Britain, France, China, Soviet Union, United States, Germany, Italy, and Japan. The nation that suffered most percentage-wise, which is Poland, is not mentioned at all. And yet, even in popular Wikipedia one can read "In August 2009 the Polish Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) researchers estimated Poland's dead at between 5.6 and 5.8 million", in addition to the table that shows that 16.1-16.7 % of the Polish citizens lost their lives during World War II. How can one miss the nation that suffered so much in the textbook material? This is not a good way to teach anybody. My guess is that people who work for President Obama have been educated in the US high schools, so for some of them it may not be easy, even after graduating from the best universities, to have a good feeling for all these things. We often complain about math and science, as the two areas where our students fall behind. How about history? Once students learn history in a proper manner, they will be sensitive to the historical truth.

        I also do not agree with the opinions that President Obama misspoke. He was given a written text to read, i.e., someone in the White House responsible for proofreading the text missed the historically incorrect facts. I am surprised that President Obama did not catch it. He has degrees from the best universities.

        June 5, 2012 at 10:22 am |
  2. RealityBites

    Words == ignorance and incompetence

    Nice try Bob...

    May 30, 2012 at 10:42 am |
  3. Flier100

    It was a German-built death camp. Poland did not fight the Nazi Army, we fought the German Army. And it's not the "Republican Army" in Afghanistan, it's the American Army in Afghanistan.

    May 30, 2012 at 10:52 am |
    • martin

      Another "misspelling"?

      Poland was fighting German nazi army since 1st Sep 1939 and newer surrendered.
      U.S joined to WWII fight two years later.

      June 1, 2012 at 1:42 am |
  4. Fred

    Outrage in Poland at Obama??

    You wouldn't know it from reading CNN's headline news.., until you get all the way back here to Bob's political opinion.

    May 30, 2012 at 10:52 am |
    • Bruce L

      No? But u did read the ticker didn't you, you didn't see it on FOx they're too busy getting ignorant Americans to get out and vote for the corp. raider job killer, dream killer, pension robber, scumbag there I said it, he is

      May 30, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
      • Fred

        It was on Foxnews front page..., the day it happened.

        May 31, 2012 at 10:34 am |
  5. B.

    Give Obama a break people, everyone knows his intent- – He has been honoring great people in a timely way consistently which should be applauded.

    May 30, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • William Blake

      A truth that's told with bad intent beats all the lies you can invent.

      May 31, 2012 at 10:55 am |
      • ace

        So there were "American Terrorists that attacked the WTC" – just because it took place on American land. Sorry, but Poland suffered the most in WWII. Call the thing as it is. Germans built the Death Camps and that's the truth. Apologies accepted by the Polish nation and these two nations can still be friends. God bless Poland and America.

        June 1, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
  6. birthmom

    OMG Can CNN be the only Totally biased news?
    The headline should read Obama's ignorance and Incompetence in the Medal of HOnor ceremony.
    This was disgusting. What would have been the headline have been if it was George Bush? I guess Obama is a genius and will never be called out but the media portrayed Bush as dumb and everything was used against him.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • gradivuus

      Of course the media is going to downplay this. It's always been like this. When Dan Quayle told a student that the proper spelling of "potato" was "potatoe" (which the dictionary gives as an acceptable alternate spelling) because he was reading it off of a spelling bee card handed to him by the English teacher there (heck, in that situation I would've also thought it was the official spelling bee spelling), it was front page news for days, and for the next three months the media were going on about how it showed Dan Quayle was a moron. But Obama says there are 57 states in America, or pronounces corpsman "corpse man" several times in his speech, or Al Gore thinks the National Motto "e pluribus unum" means the opposite of what it actually does, and it's no big deal – just an innocent slip of the tongue.

      Of course the media aren't going to hold Obama to the same standard as they hold Republicans. He's a Democrat, and their shiz don't stink.

      May 30, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
      • Fred

        Truth is clearly not what the collaberating news networks are interested in...

        May 31, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • Teresa

      Well you just showed your total ignorance didn't you

      "The headline should read Obama's ignorance and Incompetence in the Medal of HOnor ceremony."

      The Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration awarded by the United States government. It is bestowed by the President in the name of Congress, and is conferred only upon members of the United States Armed Forces who distinguish themselves through "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his or her life above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States." most are awarded postumously.

      This award was called Medal of Freedom, The Medal of Freedom was a decoration established by President Harry S. Truman to honor civilians whose actions aided in the war efforts of the United States and its allies. It was intended to be awarded by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of War, or the Secretary of the Navy, but it is known that Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy also authorized awards. Established on July 6, 1945, the Medal of Freedom may be awarded "to any person, not hereinafter specifically excluded, who, on or after December 7, 1941, has performed a meritorious act or service which has aided the United States in the prosecution of a war against an enemy or enemies and for which an award of another United States medal or decoration is considered inappropriate. The Medal of Freedom may also be awarded to any person, not hereinafter specifically excluded, who, on or after December 7, 1941, has similarly aided any nation engaged with the United States in the prosecution of a war against a common enemy or enemies. The Medal of Freedom shall not be awarded to a citizen of the United States for any act or service performed within the continental limits of the United States or to a member of the armed forces of the United States." The medal may be awarded posthumously.

      The Medal of Freedom was discontinued in 1963 when the Presidential Medal of Freedom was instituted.

      Now do you know the difference? I doubt it.

      May 31, 2012 at 9:01 am |
      • Michael

        Yeah... but to be fair... you copy and pasted that DIRECTLY off of wikipedia...

        May 31, 2012 at 10:38 pm |
  7. Carole

    This is soooooo much fun hearing about his gaffs and reading the book 'The Amateur' @ the same time!!! This is no joke. It is really true!!

    May 30, 2012 at 11:09 am |
  8. Basia

    I guess CNN does not value it's integrity – or maybe never really had. What happened to TRUE reporting, tell it like it is :President Obama proved once again his ignorance and incompentence. World class leader? Pathetic and sad.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:15 am |
  9. First

    Could Polish death camps, have been the Presidents way of stating the Polish were the victims of the Nazi death camps in Poland? After all he was honoring a Polish survivor for his outstanding deed at the time.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:18 am |
  10. judy

    get over it. Ya know the miss spelling of America by the romney nuts is more of a story. If Obama had made that mistake the repos would have gone crazy and said see he is not from here and is a socialist out to distroy the country. Ol mitt is still hanging on to birther donald. Just goes to show you being rich doesnt make you smart. George wills was right . Poland needs to worry about its economy and chill Obama 2012.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • Kool-Aid Police

      $50.00 fine for Obama worship

      May 30, 2012 at 11:52 am |
    • Pan Jerzy Dwa Wina

      Judy, we're taking about the deaths of millions of innocent people murdered by the Nazis here. No offense, but your use of the word "chill" just shows how insensitive and arrogant you are...

      May 30, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
    • Zenx

      Why Poland needs to worried about economy?

      May 30, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • Jaxin

      Romney's mispelling is no where near as severe. That was a tiny mistake that people can laugh at. This comment by that idiot angered a nation... which is worse? Though I doubt your iq is high enough to answer that correctly...

      May 30, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • Steveo

      Judy, Judy, Judy!

      This story has NOTHING do with Romney! Nice try at circling the wagons though!

      May 30, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
    • ewa

      Actually our economy is not so bad. Greeks, Italians or Spanish should be more concerned about it. this is a strong ignorance for us and it bother us!!!!

      May 30, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
    • jerry

      O'Idiots gaf was a open mic statement to the Russian how he would have more latitude to deal with them after he is reelected...when our votes will no longer matter...and one of Mitt Romney's people misspell a word.... this about sums it all up. Listen America while your vote still counts

      May 30, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • Aneta

      Judy- You're kidding right? Poland needs to "chill" How would you feel if your country had been accused by a "misstatement" of garnering death camps? Obama should make a public Apology! If he wanted to lose a major population from voting from him, he couldn't have done a better job. How rude! Even if it was a pre-written speech, he said it. So he should apologize publicly too, rather than having the White House do "damage control." Americans continue to be the most selfish and self-absorbed culture in the World. Ridiculous

      May 30, 2012 at 10:43 pm |
  11. Howard

    IT is unbelievably irresponsible that CNN decides not to cover this issue but instead gives Donald Trump and Blitzer the ability to run the headlines. How stupid are we? Even MSNBC puts this on the front page. Is CNN a news organization or a side show?

    Wolf Blitzer will not get a Pulitzer prize for his Trump coverage. Poland certainly deserves and apology and President Obama should read up on history before insulting our friends.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:42 am |
  12. Mark Glicker

    Perhaps the president can learn a bit of history between now and November.

    May 30, 2012 at 11:44 am |
  13. taautos

    "nazi" is not a mythical nation, why do people stay away from saying "german atrocities" ?

    May 30, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
  14. Harry-Henryk

    it's extremelly offensive. That Pole who was honored, was fighting like thousand others to save Jewish Poles at WWII. From who? From other Poles?!! For us it's like suggesting that not Germans are responible for those massacre but actualy Poles. My grandfather brothers died in such camps and sugessting that they were mourdered by other Poles is really offensive...

    May 30, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
  15. fresherty

    "American terrorists attack at World Trade Center"... See the difference now?

    May 30, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
  16. Gretchen

    It seem you lefties over at CNN just love to bury negative stories in regards to Obama yet can't wait to overblow anything which has to do with Romney. No wonder your ratings are in the toilet!!!

    May 30, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
  17. EdR

    Gaffes seem to happen every time Obama travels without his teleprompter. Reminds me of the nutty mistake Carter made, when he tried to speak Polish. He told the crowd that he "loved" them in a carnal way. They were tolerantly amused by his ignorance. Presidents and candidates have tough schedules and are exhausted most of the time. We should cut them a bit of slack.

    May 30, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
  18. crazypete

    Not sure how he misspoke. The "Polish" descriptor could refer to the Geographical location of the camp (in which case it is correct) or the ownership of the camp (in which case he misspoke). I do not believe there are hard and fast grammar rules to cover which is correct.

    May 30, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
    • crazypete

      I wonder if my response to myself will be subject to moderation.

      May 30, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
      • crazypete


        May 30, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • martin

      What is i.e. "U.S. Embassy"? Is it embassy of U.S. located geographically on non-U.S. country? Or Embassy of some country located geographically in U.S?
      Of course it's embassy of U.S.
      What is i.e. "american car"? Is it car made by Americans, or foreign car on U.S. road?
      etc, etc...
      Geographical location is not being commonly used to describe objects, so using 'polish dead camp' is not just misspoking, it's very offensive.
      The same way you use geographical locations, we could use 'American terrorist attack on the WTC', or 'Afghanistan soldiers' instead of 'U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan', or 'Guantanamo – Cuban base' instead of 'U.S. base'.

      June 1, 2012 at 11:11 am |
  19. crazypete

    This comment is a test to see if it will be "awaiting moderation" since my last one was (but with nothing naughty inside).

    May 30, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
  20. crazypete


    May 30, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
  21. Obama_go_back_to_school

    Is Obama going to say "Guantanamo is a cuban terrorist camp" ?

    May 30, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
  22. Krzysztof

    The concentration camps were invented by Germans, built by Germans and run by Germans and should be associated with Germans.

    Calling them Polish is wrong because it suggests that they were built or run by Poles. 16% of Poland’s population has been killed by Germans or Russians during this WWII, 3 million of them were Catholics. One should remember and respect that.

    May 30, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
  23. Kool-Aid Police

    Since Obama doesn't like jews it probably isn't a slip.

    May 30, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • Mark Glicker

      I wouldn't go that far. Just a bunch of not ready for prime time actors at the WH.

      May 30, 2012 at 10:43 pm |
  24. Greg

    what a shame:(((((((((((((((

    May 30, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
  25. crazypete

    Why are my comments "awaiting moderation" but others are getting posted? There is nothing obscene or even that controversial about my post.

    May 30, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
  26. tenon

    Polish dead camps are the same like Guantanamo is Cuban prison.

    May 30, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
  27. Dean


    May 30, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
    • Pete

      @Dean,look in the mirror lately hoss!!!Most republicans are,with their racist rants and other collective unfactual statements,they're mounting up fast,ignorence is abundent in the republican camp and what's pathedic,you people know it!!!!

      May 31, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
  28. rationalis


    May 30, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
  29. MK

    Such a gaffe is not a "simple" mistake. It is akin to referring to slavery in the southern USA as "African-American Plantations" (blaming the victim for the atrocity) or "Yankee Plantations" (blaming those who fought against the atrocity). No nation did more to fight for freedom in WW2 and no nation lost more in terms of land, proportion of their population, or collective rights. I agree with Mr. Glicker, a bit of basic history for the President and/or his speech writers (maybe with a compulsory study tour of Poland) would not be time wasted.

    May 30, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
  30. taautos

    still waiting for my comment >"nazi" is not a mythical nation, why do people stay away from saying "german atrocities" ?< to be published. how could it be against the rules ?

    May 30, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
  31. crazypete

    Your comment is awaiting moderation

    May 30, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
  32. crazypete

    No, Your comment is awaiting moderation! Take that! Ha!

    May 30, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
  33. crazypete

    I do not believe in moderation. I enjoy everything to excess!

    May 30, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
  34. Shamrock

    Poland from now on will commemorate american terrorist attacks 9/11

    May 30, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
  35. koko

    Similar mistake was made many times. And everbody finally should know that were German death camps.

    May 30, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
  36. Amazed

    "Obama has spoken of the bravery of Poles during World War II in past speeches. Last year, he visited the Warsaw Ghetto Memorial that honors those who perished in the Holocaust."

    Is that some kind of a plug for an incompetent president? Why is it even mentioned in this article? What does it have to do with the mis-speaking? Why not mention that he held a "Beer Summit" one time when he mis-spoke, and then suggest that perhaps a second "Beer Summit" might make the Poles a happier bunch again? You know, beer is always the answer!

    May 30, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
    • RealityBites

      Obama is the first prez to ever set up a micro-brewery in the WH.
      Its produced more bottles of beer in the last three years than Obama has created jobs.
      Bet you haven't read that on CNN.., until now.

      May 31, 2012 at 11:09 am |
  37. Mobious

    LOL Our pres is such a NOOB.

    May 30, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
  38. jerry

    the horrible disposition of 3 million polish Jews mean nothing to obama... in fact he has done a good job of selling out Poland to the Russian Bear as it is... and also Israel... fact is the Bear knows he (obama) is finished and is per the snub at the G8 and etc Barry the-fraud-in-chief is living in his head.

    May 30, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • DEcember 2012


      May 30, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
  39. DEcember 2012




    May 30, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
    • juergen

      actually, people of poland are sick of "nazi death camps" or "polish death camps". there is no such nation as "nazistan", let's just face it, why not say "german nazi death camps" as the united nations do? as for "polish death camps", the level of education is going down, thus there are plenty of people with no clue whatsoever. as a pole, a person from a nation with 6 million people dead during the war, you wouldn't want to be pointed as the villain.
      and if anyone says anything bad on poles, let me remind you of the yad vashem institute's head count of poles saving jews during the war (and the fact that there was a death penalty awaiting any pole doing that, in contrast to the france etc).

      May 30, 2012 at 8:03 pm |
    • Aneta

      When the People of Poland worked years to convince The New York Times to stop referring to the Nazi camps as "Polish," it is an extremely big deal that the President of the United States insults a country that has helped the US in more ways than you (the US, the public, the commentators) will ever know. Again, the US and its citizens are selfish, ignorant and unable to admit their own faults and mistakes. Obama should apologize. The US would demand that of Poland if such a misstep had occurred (although none ever would because the US never had to undergo the cultural, emotional and physical atrocities of the Holocaust).

      May 30, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
    • Michal

      I'm sorry, but you are totally mistaken. It's not about the metal capacity. It's about to speak accurately without any margin to interpret. This was a huge margin.

      Imagine hearing "American planes killed 5 thousand in WTC".
      This is what you are saying when you are talking about "Polish death camps". These were NAZI death camps. That particular happened to be located by nazis in the occupied Poland. There were others located elsewhere too.
      It's really not so difficult to replace that one word.

      May 31, 2012 at 1:59 am |
    • martin

      What is i.e. 'american car'? Is it car located in America or car made by Americans?

      Imagine someone saying i.e. 'U.S. dead camp'. Does it sound like U.S. people are killing or U.S. people are killed or is located in U.S.? Who is killing in 'U.S. dead camp'? If such term does not answer clearly to these questions, it may be misunderstood, and must be avoided.
      Regardless where the dead camps were located, they must be called 'nazi dead camps'.

      German nazi dead camps were located in many places in Europe occupied by nazis.
      Term 'polish dead camp' is very offensive because milions of Poles were killed in dead camps. Dead camps were created by german nazis. The only correct term is 'german nazi dead camp'.

      May 31, 2012 at 3:41 am |
    • Rafal from Poland

      I'm from Poland.. During II WW we lost over 20% our Population, 6 milllon our citizen. Half of them ( 3 millions were polish Jews). Almost every family lost someone. They were killed by the German Nazis and by the Russian Communists.
      Poles were the only people punished by The Germans the death penalty for saving Jews. Guess why it was like that?
      So please try understand US, it is still very harmful and painful to hear from President of The USA "polish death camps". Poles loves Freedom and True, because we many time fighted and died for both things. In these camps builded by Germans and located in the occupied Poland prisoners, victims were Poles, Jews, political oponents, many other nations, and after 1941 also russians, ukrainian .

      May 31, 2012 at 4:06 am |
    • DEcember 2012



      May 31, 2012 at 10:57 am |
      • Pete

        @December2012,if this was a Romney or fellow republican mistake would this site be so congestive,such hypocrites with their supposid intellect!And their republicans say much worse,but being they're republicans and ignorent ,illiterate naturally,we let them slide,that's typical,its OK for me,ta hell with you attitude,it'll come back and bite em where it hurts,they'll see in November,take care buddy!!Ignorence is bliss,just ask any republican,they just don't know any better!!!

        May 31, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • jean2009

      Rethughliklans wouldn't be happy unless they are complaining about zip.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:33 pm |
  40. MP

    "Words at medal ceremony causes trouble with Poland" What kind of misleading, biased headline is this??
    It should say Obama's incompetence and ignorance of history on display yet again. No wonder CNN's ratings are at 20-year low. Blatant bias!

    May 30, 2012 at 8:02 pm |
  41. anna

    Yes ONE of the GERMAN NAZI death camps was located in Poland, read up on your history. The fact that his statement insinuated that this was a POLISH death camp where thousands of people (not only Jewish people) died i guess is no big deal to people who are ignorant on European history. So by expecting more from the people of Poland means what? We should just forgive any ignorant and stupid comment someone (like the PRESIDENT OF THE US) makes? Lets just give him a break cuz he's been so busy? Maybe you need to use your mental capacity to figure out that his comment is not ok...

    May 30, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
  42. Kandric

    An unfortunate gaffe. Though it proves he is human by making a mistake. Apologies to the Polish people, but sometimes things happen.

    May 30, 2012 at 8:41 pm |
  43. THE BOB

    December 2012, there are Americans who do not know where Iraq is. So "Polish camps" will mean to them "Polish camps". Besides, if those are Polish camps then American terrorists attacked on 9/11 because they were on American soil at the moment.... 🙁

    May 30, 2012 at 8:50 pm |
    • DEcember 2012


      May 31, 2012 at 11:08 am |
  44. mike proctor

    The Poles need to get over it because the man made a mistake and in reference to the dumb ass comments, you racists need to find your rock and crawl back under it.

    May 30, 2012 at 10:24 pm |
    • THE Bob

      And who is talking about race? Do not start it and go under your rock. And do it quick.

      May 31, 2012 at 11:01 am |
  45. hannah01

    Thought I read somewhere that the Poles in the area of a Nazi death camp in Poland had their heads in the sand and denied knowing there was even a death camp in their own backyard...

    May 31, 2012 at 3:12 am |
    • Steven

      Thought I read somewhere that Americans had their heads in the sand when the Soviets took control over half of Europe after WW2.

      May 31, 2012 at 3:41 am |
    • juergen

      i thought i read that the allies got the information about the nazi atrocities in 1942 and did nothing about it....

      May 31, 2012 at 3:42 am |
    • Ellie

      Would you care to identify this "somewhere" source? Seems you just made that up.

      May 31, 2012 at 3:53 am |
    • martin

      You should avoid reading such stupid and offensive informations.
      Dead camps were newer denied by Poles. Millions on Poles were killed by german nazis in dead camps. Many Poles were hiding Jews and helping avoid dead camps. For helping prisoners and Jews many Poles were punished by dead.

      Imagine yourself, you may be killed if you decide to help someone. Will you help someone you dont know risking your and yours family life or not? Of course some people were too affraid loosing life. Again, imagine you have family to protect. Will you risk sacrifice your entire family life by helping prisoners? Only the most brave people did so. Are you sure you are so brave?

      May 31, 2012 at 4:02 am |
    • Veronica

      Another ignorant comment by an American who doesn't understand that not only JEWS were in NAZI death camps in Poland but POLES as well – so you think we ignored the fact that our own people were being murdered by Nazis? Dont write comments if you don't know what you're writing about!

      May 31, 2012 at 4:23 am |
    • Pan Jerzy Dwa Wina

      Just for your information: the population of Poland decreased by 6 million during the war. Out of these 6 million people, approximately 3 million were the Polish Jews who either parished at the death camps, or survived and left Poland shortly after the war, and 1 million were the Poles who either emigrated to the West, or found themselves in Soviet Union after being deported - the remaining 2 million Poles were murdered by the Nazis in the very same death camps where their Jewish neighbors were gassed. What you read "somewhere" is just a slenderous stereotype, nothing more.

      May 31, 2012 at 5:56 am |
    • Paul

      Poland was occupied. Poland was attacked by Hitler in 1939. The Germans invaded on Polish lands without Polish permission. Your comment is very stupid. Germany after the invasion the Polish introduced a terrible terror throughout the country. Closed schools and universities. They began to arrest. Terror included Poles and Jews. The scale of terror was more and more frightening. Victims – six million Jews, 3 million Polish Jews and three million European Jews. Poland lost three million Polish Jews and three million Poles. The Polish capital, Warsaw, so beautiful before the war was destroyed.

      May 31, 2012 at 8:28 am |
  46. Veritas

    That was GERMAN death camps. Where those 'nazis' came from? Mars? They were Germans.

    May 31, 2012 at 4:06 am |
  47. Paul

    The concentration camps in Poland were German Nazi. Poland was occupied by Nazi Germany (1939 – 1945)
    Poland was the victim of the Nazis. Nazis killed in the camps mainly Jews but also Poles. In Poland, Warsaw, there were two uprising against occupant: Ghetto Uprising (Jewish in 1943) and the Warsaw Uprising (Polish Home Army (AK) in 1944). Warsaw – the Polish capital was completely destroyed.
    Poles were murdered by the Germans, were mass murders of Polish civilians. This was during the Warsaw Uprising and during the five year occupation of the country. Mainly it was the liquidation of the Polish intelligentsia. Jews were the main victims of war, but we forget about the other victims. Poles during the Second World War helped the Jews. They hid them. But there were also Poles, who acted cruelly. There were also the crimes committed by Poles against Jews in Jedwabne, eg. In the west, little is known stories of eastern and central Europe. This follows from the years of communism, the Berlin Wall.

    May 31, 2012 at 6:13 am |
  48. Sheeshaman

    ...and Martin Luther King was a Ku Klux Klan Lider.
    Upss, my misspoke!

    May 31, 2012 at 6:20 am |
  49. Marta

    Why Mr Obama do not think ? I know the education of World History in USA is not well but please ...

    Kind regards,

    May 31, 2012 at 6:56 am |
  50. John Doe

    Just to picture you guys what the numbers look like – imagine, every month for 70 years there would be 3 times WTC victims killed in terrorist attack in US. Every month, 70 years. Can you see the scale of this tragedy, now? Almost 7 million people. This is as if the whole population of Arizona was killed. This is how much Poles (incluidng Polish Jews) were killed by Germans during World War II. So this is not just that Obama misspoke. He should really ask those people for forgiveness

    May 31, 2012 at 10:27 am |
  51. John Doe

    Just to picture you guys what the numbers look like – imagine, every month, for 70 years there would be 3 times WTC victims killed in terrorist attack in US. Every month, 70 years. Can you see the scale of this tragedy, now? Almost 7 million people. This is as if the whole population of Arizona was killed. This is how much Poles were killed by Germans during World War II. So this is not just that Obama misspoke. This is big time issue.

    May 31, 2012 at 10:27 am |
  52. kevin

    Putting aside feelings just looking at this as a simple English and history letter.
    Someone writes the speech and gives it to the president to proof read and edit. It goes back to the writer who makes the changes. The president approves the changes and into the telepromptor it goes. First the writer obviously didn't proof read before sending it on nor did the writer bother having someone else read it as to accuracy. The president obviously not well versed in English reads it thinks yes polish death camps is accurate and people will understand what I mean. Reads it blindly off the old tele and bingo everyone in the world knows that he saying the Poles ran the death camp. Wasn't English covered at old Havard Yard? Isn't English a pretty important class if you are a lawyer? Just shows from bottom to top there is a serious lack of common sense. Like the old qoute common sense isn't all that common.

    May 31, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • jerry

      these nut case lefties just cant quit giving it to President is all they got. obama is a tremendous failure domestically and abroad and on his way to the curb...will be remembered as the worst presidential failure in history.

      May 31, 2012 at 7:25 pm |
  53. jean2009

    "The problem with the French is they don't have a word for "entrepreneur". George W .Bush

    "We spent a lot of time talking about Africa, as we should. Africa is a nation that suffers from incredible disease."- George W. Bush

    "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed. - May 1, 2003" George W. Bush ( premature almost as good a "Mission Accomplished" )

    Plus 15 photographs of Rethugliklans using a teleprompter.

    Some known Nazi death camps that were located in what is, and was Poland.

    Were all the materials, supplies, and manpower shipped from Germany to build, supply and guard these camps? That must have been a logistic nightmare.

    The President has already apologized...isn't this sort of being blown out of proportion?

    May 31, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
    • Steveo

      The President has already apologized...isn't this sort of being blown out of proportion?
      I actually agree with you! With that said, when the GOP apologizes for a gaffe or two, that should be the end of that discussion too, right?

      The president apologized for his "visiting 57 states with one to go comment" from a few years ago and I had no problem letting that go! Carter had his "Killer rabbit". Bush made errors as does this president and every one before him! So either we accept apologizes from left and right or we accept none of them! Which is it?

      May 31, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
      • jean2009

        I assure you many things can be blown out of proportion....however I haven't seen you speaking up when someone spouts off in a ridiculous rant about the President wasting fuel riding in AF#1 to give a Earth Day speech when in fact George W. Bush did the same thing on several occasions. Nor, did I ever hear anyone complain when George W. Bush attended an Earth Day celebration. Neither did I see you speak up and inform people that Michelle Obama was not the first -first lady to take an African vacation with daughters in tow.

        As for your Jimmy Carter's "killer rabbit" episode all I can say is "city people" mostly they are clueless about country life, country animals, and/or rabbits. Having lived in the country and having lived where rabbits were raised. I feel Jimmy Carter had an encounter with a mother rabbit who thought her young were being threatened. Female rabbits will protect their young as surely as any other mother of young.

        ."One of the biggest misconceptions is that a mother rabbit or any male rabbit will eat or kill the newborn bunnies. This is not true at all. A mother rabbit will protect her newborns with the ferociousness of a lioness."

        So amazing even here you wouldn't elaborate on Bush's errors.

        May 31, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
      • Steveo


        1. Jimmy Carter is from Plains, Ga. City People?
        2. We had the AF 1 conversation before. I told you: a. There are more than enough blogger police out there and I don't need to be one and b. I pick my battles and AF-1 is not one of them!
        3. I read lots of blogs ridiculing Bush. You are awfully silent concerning those blogs yourself.
        4. You will not see me responding to every ignorant blog, whether from the left or the right!
        5. I'll jump in when I have something to say!
        6. Just relax and know that I agree with you on something, as rare as that might be!

        May 31, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
      • jean2009

        Jimmy Carter "city people" NO. Lack of experience with rabbits "YES"...The people who made a big deal about his "killer rabbit" observation "city people"= YES.
        Experience raising peanuts is not the same as experience raising rabbits.

        May 31, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
      • Steveo


        Amazing that I have not elaborated on Bush's errors? Very hypocritical because you have been absent and silent concerning Obama's errors! Obama has been in the chair for almost 4 years and you have said nothing but Bush this and Bush that. That is amazing! btw, I have said before that in some areas Bush disappointed me . No surprise of your failure to recall that! How do you know Carter had no experience with rabbits?

        June 1, 2012 at 9:07 am |
      • jean2009

        @Steveo Isn't your rant a mite off topic?

        June 1, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
      • Steveo


        No, it's not off topic. Look at the last line from your post from 31 May at 4:22 pm.

        June 1, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
      • jean2009

        Oh and those city folks thought rabbits couldn't swim...but they can.

        June 1, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
      • Steveo


        See? This is why I respect you, Jean! I did't know rabbits could swim! However, I did know they were really good at math.............. They got that multiplication thing down to a tee!

        June 1, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • Michal

      "Were all the materials, supplies, and manpower shipped from Germany to build, supply and guard these camps? That must have been a logistic nightmare."
      You want to know who built Birkenau? The prisoners themselves.
      Supply... Have you ever heard WHAT and HOW MUCH did these prisoners receive to eat?
      As for the guards... This is a question that doesn't even need any answer... Just ask yourself how US sends their armies to anywhere in the world, you'll get the answer...
      I understand it's not America's personal experience to go through brutal (and I mean BRUTAL) occupation, but c'mon – you can imagine a thing or two.

      "The President has already apologized.." – well he has not. The fact that someone in his office reacts somehow, doesn't mean he apologized. He is the chief, he should express apology.

      And please, if we Poles say it's been TOTALLY offending to us, believe us. It has been. Especially when it was the President of the USA who we treat as a really good friend. It really doesn't matter it's Obama, Clinton, Bush or Lincoln. What matters is it's been the US President. That is why it is so important for him to do it personally.

      June 1, 2012 at 1:16 am |
      • jean2009

        Who provided prisoners the building materials?
        Were there no Polish Nazi collaborators?
        Was the Jewish population in Poland not already living in ghettos before the Nazi occupation? Why was that the case?
        What about the Polish Nazi collaborators who relocated to Argentina after the war?

        Yes, Poland was occupied, but that fact does not negate the fact that there were also many Polish people who sympathized with the Nazi movement. Yes, there were many brave people in Poland who put their lives on the line to save people from extermination...but we cannot live under the false illusion that would ask us to falsely believe all Polish people were innocent... or that some did not provide assistance to the Nazis.

        June 1, 2012 at 10:29 am |
    • greg

      @jean2009 I don't care about US politics, but what you're doing in this thread is disgusting to say the least.
      You are spreading lies and blowing things out of proportion just to make Obama look OK.

      Yes, there were Polish collaborators of Germans during WWII, but they were MINORITY, and when I say MINORITY I don't mean 10%, I don't even mean 1%, I mean much much less than that.
      No, there were no Jewish ghettos before WWII in Poland. This is the most nonsensical information I have heard for a long time. You should read your beloved wikipedia more accurately, like here for example:
      There were no Polish guards at concentration camps, for many reasons. Ukrainian for example is a different story, but you should know some history to even begin to understand that. For now you can read here:
      in the link you provided ypurself: "The camps were designed and operated by Nazi Germans and there were no Polish guards at any of the camps,[7] despite the sometimes used misnomer Polish death camps. Of Poland's prewar Jewish population of 3,500,000, only about 50,000-120,000 would survive the war.[6]"

      By blowing things out of proportion and also lying you are offending lots of brave and just people. Btw Poles posses the most Righteous Among the Nations titles, which means much more than your words:

      June 2, 2012 at 7:11 am |
  54. Marta

    The point is education of people's mind. Especially that was a day of people who were fighting against horrible ideologies and reality like John Karski – he would react from beyond the grave propably if he could.
    Memory feeds imagination...

    May 31, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  55. Roman

    For Mr Obama history is not a strong point- especially II WW. I hope at least he knows what's happened on Hawaiian Islands in 1941.

    May 31, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • jean2009

      I assure President Obama knows more about Poland, WWII, and the Hawaiian Islands than you.

      This coverage about: President Obama in Warsaw, Poland -May 28, 2011

      May 31, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • jerry

      It is about time America give Poland the respect she has earned...President Bush tried with the defense shield and obama killed it. We sold them out after the war (ww2) and even kept Greese away from the russian, when the poles fought so gallantly agaist the russian and during the war too...and obama continues the disgraceful attitude...and yes, this is due to ignorance and lack of honor and morality.

      May 31, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
      • jean2009

        @jerry ever the jerk...How about getting history right for a change? Remember you had such a fit about President Obama not being at Arlington on Memorial Day 2011, when he was in fact laying a wreath at the Warsaw Ghetto Museum?,7340,L-4074846,00.html

        jerry you are actually factually challenged. Have you forgotten the fact that this whole dust up happened during a Medal of Freedom Award to a Polish war hero (selected by President Obama) who saved people from extermination in the Nazi death camps... located in Poland.

        June 1, 2012 at 10:45 am |
  56. Sponge-Bob

    Obama is just not smart, pure and simple. He smoked weed and snorted coke throughout high school and we'll never see his college grades so the only evidence we have is that the media claims he's "brilliant". He certainly can't run our economy effectively and thinks there are 57 states.

    May 31, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
    • jerry

      no obama is not smart...a slick talker but not an acidemic or intellectual of any sort.

      May 31, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
  57. jerry

    Obama killed the plans (president Bushs) to build a defense shield in Poland...the Poles felt let down by this. The world knows obama hates Israel and has stabbed them in the back numerous times...really at every turn. So this is why this gaffe by obama is so upsetting... He shows his colors. American (really obama and mob) have slighted many of our long time allies and in doing so has created much distrust of America... We brought in a radical leftist with muslim leanings (and a muslim brain) and now will need a real reset in 2013...and we will get it. obama is finished.

    May 31, 2012 at 7:18 pm |
    • Paul

      I do not feel disappointed because of the shield. Quite the contrary. I do not want any installations on the territory of my country.

      June 1, 2012 at 2:25 am |
    • jean2009

      According to a Polish radio/TV survey poll 50% of Polish people were opposed to the shield being build on Polish soil, and 36% supported it....obviously 36% is not a majority of Polish people who felt let down. And even if they were do we really need the complication? Add that it would have added a strain on U.S.- Russian relations, and in the end some type of system is still being considered.

      Read paragraph titled Polish non-government response: (this is what the people when asked have to say...not the Polish government response.
      Western Europe response, and the Reformulated Obama administration project.

      June 1, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
      • jean2009

        June 1, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
  58. Name*Liz Carter

    Do you trolls know what ignorance and incompetance really is?? It's George W Bush!! You all just didn't jump on his every syllable, non-syllable, word, sentence or phrase!!! You all just laughed about it, because it became an expectation. Neither did the heads of state, diplomats or other statesmen even carry those chips on their shoulders!!! They would have been to heavy!! Plus, they got used to it and expected it!! I can understand very well why the President could have easily made that HUMAN error or miss-speak. I know exactly why you can't too. It's because you hate him and you just don't want to; you evil demons!! Did you take the time to read the whole thread before you jumped out with hateful comments?? Maybe you did; maybe you didn't!! However, they apologized and explained that the MAN was talking about NAZI DEATH CAMPS which were set up in Poland!!! BTW, do you think we AMERICA could even allow Russia or any other country to set up death camps here, and they wouldn't sometimes be recognized even by mistake as AMERICAN DEATH CAMPS, by some?? They would be labeled by some who even knew better as American Death Camps, WHY??? Because the camps would be on our land, in our country!!! You clowns really need to leave this President alone and stop being so racist, and petty!! Pathetic lunatics!!

    May 31, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
    • martin

      American's concentration camp:

      If Russia (or other country) would set up death camp in U.S., it will be denied by Russia. Later you will be doing everything to protect good name of your country and make everyone sure who was the victim and who was killer.

      June 1, 2012 at 11:36 am |
  59. Mark

    It is a shame that a U.S President doesn't know what he is talking about. He should go back to school and take some history classes. Ridiculous!!!

    June 1, 2012 at 7:09 am |
  60. Henry from Poland

    Obama accused of all Poles Ltd. biggest crimes in human history, which in reality have earned Germany. It is a scandal that you can not forgive. Obama faked stories and so savagely wounded Poles. Now the most important is to prevent his reelection. He must disappear from the political map of the United States.
    And Poland should finally understand that it is an independent country and sit on his knees to stop the U.S.

    June 2, 2012 at 3:06 am |
    • Paul from Poland

      The Second World War for my country is a big trauma. The German occupation of Poland was hell for the Jews and the Poles.

      June 4, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • Paul from Poland

      Your comment is inappropriate. Americans choose the president. It's an independent country.

      June 4, 2012 at 11:55 am |
  61. Paul

    Poland should be a neutral country. Alliance with America is humiliating. Except that this alliance is also a consequence of the war. Poland has a psychological problem. This problem is a result of wartime experience.

    June 4, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
    • Paul

      Poland is an ally of America. Only that America does not know why Poland is so loyal. The constant fear of Germany and Russia. This is our psychological problem.

      June 4, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • Paul

      Why is this alliance is humiliating?.
      Iraq, Afghanistan. Stop the war. Every war is bad.
      Heal The World – Michael Jackson.

      June 4, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
  62. Paul

    For the the Nazis, Poles and Jews were subhuman.

    June 4, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
  63. Paul

    The Poles, the letter P on the chest in concentration camps. Tattoo with the number on hand. It is a stigma.

    June 4, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
  64. Paul

    Heal the world – Michael Jackson

    June 5, 2012 at 3:14 am |
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