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April 1, 2006

An Auschwitz by any Other Name is Just as Reprehensible

auschwitzI just read that Poland is petitioning UNESCO to change the name of the notorious Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp to .

The move apparently comes in reaction to recent German media references to the camp as a "Polish concentration camp". It’s no surprise that the government in Warsaw is anxious to disassociate itself with the most memorable symbol of the Holocaust, but to me, this name change request is little more than finger-pointing as well as an inaccurate use of nomenclature.

Here are just a few reasons for resisting the name change to "Former Nazi German Concentration Camp Auschwitz-Birkenau":

  • Auschwitz-Birkenau are a pair of Polish towns and not German towns.
  • Adding "former" to the name is meaningless. Tourists don’t say "I’m going to visit the former Graceland" or the "former Versailles" — I’m sure they’re smart enough to know that this is a former concentration camp or they wouldn’t risk the visit.
  • The phrase Nazi German gives me pause. It is possible to be a German and not be a Nazi. It’s also possible to be Polish and be a Nazi. So Nazi alone suffices.
  • Last, the length of this name is simply unbearable. Even for a German attraction.

Here’s my petition. Keep it short. Most people just call it Auschwitz anyway.

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Posted by Diane Prange at April 1, 2006 4:31 PM
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Dachau has a similar "image problem". Livejournal blogger Zdenka noted on her visit that the only place where she encountered a "Welcome to Dachau" sign was a local McDonalds.

Good points, Diane. Regardless of the official name, everyone will call it Auschwitz. This reminds me of those people who insisted that after Y2K we should write the year with four digits. Six years in to the millennium, most are abbreviating the year to the last two anyway. Auschwitz will always be Auschwitz, and people will continue to visit the former camp to pay tribute to the fallen.

Give Poland a Break

I don’t see any thing wrong with changing the name of Auschwitz-Birkenau to "Former Nazi German Concentration Camp Auschwitz-Birkenau." Yes the name is a bit long, but it would prevent any sense of confusion to uninformed people. While at the same tine protecting the innocent country of Poland from any misconceptions of having the country in any way involved with the genocide of Jews and other groups of people that died in those concentration camps.

You stated: “Auschwitz-Birkenau are a pair of Polish towns and not German towns.”

I’m not sure where you got this information, but Auschwitz is a camp not a town and it’s in the city called Oświęcim. Birkenau is also not a Polish town the town is called Brzezinka, when Germany invaded Poland it changed the name to the German name but it was changed back to its original name.

Response to your statement about “inaccurate use of nomenclature” Here is why I disagree with you word by word of the proposed name

Former- yes it was a former concentration camp not currently operated so no problem with this term

Nazi- yes it was controlled by Nazi’s

German- yes I do believe Germany was responsible for WWII and invaded Poland and built these camps

I do agree with you that the common person will still call it Auschwitz; however its official name can be different then what the common person uses as is the case for many official names. An example is the United Kingdom which most everybody uses, but the official name is United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Poland suffered heavily from WWII losing a total of 5 million citizens and returning home to a completely destroyed country after the war. If it will make them feel any better for the name change then so be it

This is what happens when one learns history from Hollywood movies and from books like "Mila 18". Sir, first of all it wasn't just a small group of Germans that followed Hitler and the rest were innocent bystenders. I suggest you watch less tv and read more history books.
Secondly, "nazi" is short for NSDAP or Nazional Sozialistische Deutcher Arbaitung Partei, which in English means National Sociallist German Workers Party! And thus Poles could not be nazis!
Nor were they co-operating with the GERMAN occupiers of Poland in any official capacity. Polish government in exile was located in London,England and was on the Allied side of the War! Poland was the only occupied country in Europe which did not have on its soil an administration, which colaborated with the Nazi Germany.Basic history.

I agree with the comments. The name is just too long. I'm thirteen and I haven't yet traveled out of America, but I do hope to visit different sites, such as Nazi Camps. But I do know that I wouldn't be excited about visiting 'Former Nazi German Concentration Camp Auschwitz-Birkenau'. It would sort of diminish the importance of the site. It makes it sound like a library, not that I don't love libraries, but it just sounds boring. I'd much rather visit Auschwitz, do you know what I mean?


The autor of the text have some rights, first of all suggested name is too long. However, it's important to avoid German people think that was polish camp. They should be aware of their lowlife history. It's disgusting when they try to blame Poland, when they especially should plead guilty! Don't forget that Poles was next to exteriminate, after Jews.
When that camp had been in your country, how would you feel now? Miffed or even worse?
It's unbelievable what Marty maintains that "I'd much rather visit Auschwitz" Auschwitz is NOT regular museum and visiting is NOT kind of entertainment!!! Milions died there!
And if you didn't know it Auschwitz-Birkenau are NOT Polish towns, but only German names of Oświęcim and Brzezinka-that's Polnish towns!

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