Poland fears world forgets Auschwitz was Nazi camp

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Six decades after the Holocaust, Poland fears the world is forgetting Nazi Germany was responsible for the wartime concentration camps meant to wipe out European Jewry.

It says the phrase "Polish death camps" has been popping up in newspapers around the world in recent years in reports about camps the Nazis built on occupied territory in today's Poland.

Warsaw takes the issue so seriously that it has started a campaign to ensure the phrase "Nazi German concentration camp" is used in reference to Auschwitz. Newspapers writing "Polish death camps" promptly get a sharp protest letter from the local Polish embassy to the editor.

Visiting the camp in southern Poland this week, August Kowalczyk, former inmate number 6804, said he hoped German-born Pope Benedict would give the campaign a boost when he visits Auschwitz on Sunday at the end of his pilgrimage to Poland.

"If Pope Benedict says we're in the German Nazi camp of Auschwitz, people may finally understand," said Kowalczyk, a retired Polish writer and actor. Up to 1.5 million people, mostly Jews, were killed there during World War Two.

"Lots of people say this camp is Polish, but if a German pope says it isn't, maybe people will listen."

The pope's prayer at the camp will be the only words he says during the trip in German, which he has not used to avoid hurting Polish and Jewish sensitivities.

Part of the reason for the use of "Polish death camps" is geographical confusion, historians say. The passage of time means fewer people know the Nazis set up their death camps in occupied areas far from Germany itself, probably to hide the horrors of the Holocaust.

Auschwitz is the largest of the camps in present-day Poland. Among the others were Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka.

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