WARSAW, Poland — An appeals court in Poland on Thursday ruled that a German broadcaster must publicly apologize to an Auschwitz survivor for having described Nazi-German death camps as “Polish”.
“Every Pole won’t necessarily be offended but the plaintiff was. He went from being a victim to the culprit” because of the erroneous wording, the judge wrote in his ruling.
Polish citizen Karol Tendera, 95, brought the case against Germany’s ZDF channel over the wording in a 2013 promotional trailer for a documentary about the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau and Majdanek.
The Nazi death camps were set up and entirely controlled by Germany in occupied Poland.
A lower court had earlier dismissed the case by saying ZDF had “effectively” explained its behavior in two letters it sent to Tendera and a statement posted on its website.
But the appeals court in the southern city of Krakow overturned the earlier decision and called for more, asking ZDF to publish its apology for a month on its website.
It said the wording had violated Tendera’s rights, including his dignity and national identity.
Warsaw monitors global media closely for descriptions of such camps as Polish, having also censured British and US media in the past.
Even if the term is used as a geographical indicator, Warsaw says it can give the impression that Poland bore responsibility for the Holocaust, whereas it was one of the greatest victims of the slaughter.
Poland was attacked and occupied by Nazi Germany in World War II, losing six million of its citizens, including three million Jews in the Holocaust.
The government said this year it would seek fines or jail terms of up to three years against anyone who referred to the camps as Polish.