Polish president writes to Obama over ‘death camp' gaffe

Poland's President Bronislaw Komorowski said Wednesday he had written a personal letter to President Barack Obama urging him to do more to correct the record after Obama referred to "a Polish death camp" in a White House ceremony on Tuesday.

"I hope we will jointly act to make up for this unfortunate mistake. I believe that every error, every mistake can be corrected if it is given adequate consideration," Komorowski said in remarks posted on his official website.

Komorowski stopped well short of explicitly demanding an apology from Obama, who used the phrase Tuesday as he honored World War II Polish resistance hero Jan Karski with a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian American honor. Poland's foreign minister had demanded a full apology late Tuesday. But Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk made no reference to an apology on Wednesday even as he blasted Obama's remark.

The phrase shocked Polish leaders and echoed across media in Poland, where the remark was seen as suggesting that Poles — not Nazis — carried out the genocidal policies of Adolf Hitler. Obama's past comments all-but-certainly refute that interpretation, and the White House has said he merely "misspoke."

"He was referring to Nazi death camps in German-occupied Poland," Obama's press secretary Jay Carney told reporters at his daily briefing on Wednesday.

"And as we've made clear, we regret the misstatement and that simple misstatement should not at all detract from the clear intention to honor Mr. Karski, and beyond that, all those brave Polish citizens who stood on the side of human dignity in the face of tyranny," Carney said.

Asked whether Obama had plans to reach out to Polish leaders, Carney demurred. The Polish president cast the issue in terms of improving relations with the United States.

"Every recognized and reconsidered mistake can bring us closer together," he said, "to prevent recurrence of painful phrases that are divorced from the truth but which influence opinions about Poland's history and present day."

"We in Poland know well that the phrase 'Polish death camps' is not only painful and unfair but simply untrue," Komorowski said.

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