My Polish gentile friends' fathers and mothers were not incarcerated in "Polish death camps." They were Nazi camps. Nazi from the start to the finish.
Because the Nazi's put their death camps -- Auschwitz, Treblinka, Majdanek, Birkenau -- out of their way on Polish soil,, it has become common to speak of the "Polish death camps."
Let's say this altogether: Nazi death camps. Nazi death camps. Nazi death camps.
The Polish experience of the death camps was death, not authority. They did not administer, run, rule or in any way have responsibility for what the occupation German forces did on their territory.
President Obama made the mistake again yesterday and we're up in arms. It has been such an uphill slog to gain respect for the Righteous Gentiles who saved Jews, who paid with their own lives. There was as much, and as little, anti-Semitism in Poland as in Spain, France, Norway and most certainly in Germany, but this does not broad-brush the Polish people with the blame for these hideous wreckers of humanity and challenges to the human condition.
The camps were conceived in Germany, executed by Nazi officials, and set on Polish soil only for proximity to the victims (and to keep from offending the German sensibilities).
I was shocked to find my Polish gentile friends and their parents with the same blue tattoos on their arms as my Jewish friends in Chicago. Poles were kept in the death camps as long as they were useful for hard labor. Then they were summarily killed too.
The Nazi's --- I am so tempted to return evil for evil and simply call them German's --- had a plan to annihilate the majority of the Polish population to leave it as "living room" for their own people.
So let us be clear: The Polish people, Jewish and Gentile, were victims of the Nazi plan of genocide. The Poles were victims of the war, not (any more than elsewhere) collaborators.
If you want to talk about collaboration, let's sit down and talk about Vichy France. Why are we not still outraged and preoccupied, prejudiced about that? It is time for history to tell its story with integrity and honesty.
Peace to the memory of the victims of the Shoah, and to all those Polish gentiles who also died at the hands of the Nazi's and their death camps.