In January, we reported that the Wall Street Journal had revised its style guide at the behest of the Kosciuszko Foundation. No longer would the Journal use the phrases “Polish Concentration Camp” or “Polish Death Camp” to describe concentration camps located in Poland, but rather “Nazi Concentration Camp,” or the Kosciuszko preferred “German Concentration Camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.”
With the Journal on board, the Kosciuszko Foundation refocused its attention on the New York Times, who had thus far resisted their requests, despite the Foundation’s possession of a petition, signed by more than 225,000 people requesting the revision.
In a March 23rd Sunday Times Magazine article titled “Yasir Qadhi: An American Cleric,” a photo caption read “Qadhi and other American Muslim clerics pray at the Dachau concentration camp in Poland last August.” This was a double insult to the Poles who have been asking the Times for greater accuracy when describing the concentration camps. Not only was their request ignored yet again, but Dachau is actually in Germany. It is located approximately 45 miles from Munich.
Alex Storozynski, President and Executive Director of the Kosciuszko Foundation was outraged. He wrote a letter to the Times beginning “The New York Times has parked its copy desk right over the threshold of malice and libel by refusing to be truthful about German concentration camps.” The letter continues “The New York Times could have easily avoided this mistake if it had followed our request to change its stylebook regarding German concentration camps. The New York Times continues to rewrite history, and now it has redrawn the map of Europe.” He concluded “At this point, refusal to change your stylebook represents a conscious choice to continue slandering Poles and Poland.”
In response to Storozynski Eileen M. Murphy, Vice President of Corporate Communications for the New York Times Company wrote in a letter “After further discussions of the concerns raised by you and others, Times editors have decided to add an entry to the newsroom’s stylebook specifically cautioning journalists to avoid misleading phrases like ‘Polish concentration camp.’ We understand the great sensitivity of this topic and regret that any such lapses have occurred. To demonstrate our shared concern over this issue, we will add a note on this point to the stylebook and take extra care to try to avoid any further errors.
Greenpoint police officer and NYPD Pulaski Association member Stefan Komar, who has been fighting for the change for several years, said “I think it’s a very significant event because the New York Times is considered notorious for making this particular mistake in the Polish community.” Noting that the Times’ revision does not include new language for describing the camps, but rather a caution to journalists to avoid misleading statements, Komar said “I would hope that the stylebook change would indicate clearly who the perpetrators were and not use the generic ‘Nazi.’”
The Kosciuszko Foundation is an 85 year-old organization whose mission is to promote and strengthen understanding and friendship between the peoples of Poland and the United States through educational, scientific, and cultural exchanges.
Those interested in signing the petition can find it here.