Polish US community leaders from New York and Florida called in a letter to a group of lawmakers from both states to condemn Congressman Stephen Cohen for saying in May on CNN that Poland was responsible for the creation of German concentration camps, including Auschwitz.
“It was not just Nazi Germany. Poland was home to some of the more important concentration camps like Auschwitz and Birkenau,” the Democratic Party member Stephen Cohen said on May 24 on CNN.
The 72-year-old member of the House of Representatives from Tennessee was accused of spreading lies about Poland by the New York Kosciuszko Foundation.
In response to a letter from Piotr Wilczek, Polish ambassador to Washington, pointing to his improper linking of Poland with the Holocaust, Mr Cohen apologised.
“Please forgive me for referring to Poland as a geographical reference only,” the congressman explained.
His apologies were deemed insufficient by the Polish community leaders in New York and Florida. In a letter addressed to lawmakers in their states, they demanded that Cohen be condemned and reprimanded.
“The historical truth and the image of Poland was falsified in front of the CNN audience. We were offended and accused of complicity in the greatest murder of all time... A silent letter from Congressman Cohen does not repair the image damage,” Stefan Komar, one of the leaders of the New York Polish community and son of a Warsaw insurgent pointed out.
Polish diaspora leaders hope that shaping the awareness of the painful problem in the US Congress will not only help prevent such situations in the future, but will show legislators at the Capitol how important it is for Poland and Poles to correctly interpret the history and completely eliminate statements such as “Polish death camps” or suggesting that Poles are co-responsible for the Holocaust from the public debate.
“We are waiting for a reaction and a response to our letters from members of Congress. Now is the best time for them to show whether they really respect and take into account the requests of their Polish voters,” Mr Komar assessed.