April 1, 2006
An Auschwitz by any Other Name is Just as Reprehensible
I just read that Poland is petitioning UNESCO to change the name of the notorious Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp to "Former Nazi German Concentration Camp Auschwitz-Birkenau".
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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