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In the Name of Historical Truth

The past is an element of the present. For even if we do not “live” the past or do not take particular interest in it, the echoes of past events frequently resound in our own times. This includes when politicians talk about the past, when newspapers write about it, and when it becomes the subject of films and public debate. This is how the past is “contemporized” and becomes a part of our lives. 

But do we conceive the past in accordance with historical truth? Do we not distort it due to lack of knowledge or other reasons? 

...the German Concentration camps were born not in Polish territories, but in the Nazi Third Reich in the 1930s.

The phrase “Polish” extermination or death camps, which appears from time to time, is a glaring example of the distortion of truth about the past, that is, of historical truth. This phrase suggests that Poles were the creators and administrators of such camps.

It is altogether understandable that this phrase is strongly opposed in Poland — a country that suffered so much during World War II. For those camps were established when Poland was occupied by the Germans. And the Germans were their creators. They administered them. They are responsible for the death and suffering of the millions of people who went through those camps.

Map of concentration camps

This truth so obvious in Poland, should become internationally recognized. In German-occupied Poland there were no (nor could there be) any “Polish” extermination, death, or concentration camps. The German occupier established the camps to execute his criminal policy of extermination or enslavement of people of various nationalities – including Poles.

The Institute of National Remembrance (Instytut Pamięci Narodowej, IPN), whose duty is to disseminate knowledge on Poland’s recent history, cannot remain indifferent with regard to the fact that this historically incorrect phrase of “Polish” death or extermination camps, which is so offensive to Poles, reappears in various speeches and publications. Thus, we have created the “German Camps in Poland” website within the framework of our mission. Its clear message is the historical truth that there were no “Polish” extermination, death, or concentration camps. Those were German camps, for they were established and administered by the Germans, who governed occupied Poland via terror.

The phrase “Polish” extermination or death camps, which appears from time to time, is a glaring example of the distortion of truth about the past, that is, of historical truth. This phrase suggests that Poles were the creators and administrators of such camps.

 

The website consists of texts supplemented with iconographic materials. The first one illustrates the obvious truth that the German concentration camps were born not in Polish territories, but in the Nazi Third Reich in the 1930s. The Germans transplanted the camp models they had developed in Germany onto Polish territories, modifying them to suit their new purposes. The next two articles show the dramatic situation of Poles under the German occupation. Having read them, the reader will soon realize that there were various “Polish” elements of the occupation-period reality (for example, the Polish resistance movement) in the occupied country, but there were certainly no “Polish” camps.

The texts about the German camps in Poland show that the Germans created a camp network in the occupied country. Aside from the best known camps there were also other, less known ones which should be remembered. The last text talks about the Holocaust, for the German death camps played a key role in it.

We hope that the website we are launching on the anniversary of Nazi Germany’s invasion of Poland will meet our expectations and contribute to the elimination of the phrase “Polish” death camps which misrepresents historical truth.

Dr. Sławomir Kalbarczyk

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