„Polskie obozy śmierci” a wizerunek kraju - spojrzenie z zagranicy - wersja angielska




Lately, we have celebrated the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz camp. Polish media have reported on publications in foreign media, in which the term "Polish death camps" was often used. The examples of such articles in mainstream foreign press, including the New York Times, Guardian, Le Soir Illustre, Bild, Stern, Corriere della Sera, Der Spiegel and Le Monde, were shocking for Polish public opinion. Politicians, journalists, historians and readers asked for reminding foreign journalists that reckless and intentional use of such a term is offending and disgraceful. Also, Polish government and ministry of foreign affairs were asked to put attention of foreign countries to the fact that this term is inconsistent with the historical truth. Some European media supported this action. Because of such an amount of unfavorable publications, we started to ask ourselves about the image of Poland abroad in connection to "Polish death camps" and what should we do to make it more favorable. That's why PRoto decided to ask foreign PR specialists whether this term can influence image of Poland and what should we do to do to improve it. Below you'll find answers we received. There's also space for adding comments.

Let me first share with you the view that, seen from abroad, the distinction is clearly made between the fact that some nazi camps were located on Polish territory, and the decision center which made this happen, which clearly was not Polish. The depth and acuteness of feelings around any form of local collaboration with nazi undertakings is to be found in all the countries where the nazi domination prevailed for a time. France, like Poland, does not escape this self-questioning. Today still, many French will avoid using the word “collaboration” because of its specific connotation in this respect. This does not mean that this question of responsibility of a nation would form the core of perceptions of that nation by any other one.
One cannot change facts. One can continue to condemn criminal facts, and associate with the memory of criminal facts to keep the memory in the conscience of most. This, I feel, is what the Polish authorities did in contributing to the commemoration in Auschwitz with a number of heads of States and governments. A ceremony strong in its simplicity, dignified in its protocol putting not powers but memory, in this case survivors, at the center.
Denying any involvment of Poland or the Poles in any past event taking place on their territory would only seem to express guilt, where solidarity is the only need. Poland and the Poles have a historic track record not unlike that of our other ancient European nations, neither black nor white, but made of all the shades of grey, with dark spots and brilliant ones at places. We only need to remember where they were dark and strive to stay on the side as brilliant as possibly human nature and individual conscience will allow us.
This is no answer to your question “how to” change this aspect in the image of Poland. As you well know, there is no such recipe. It is mostly a question of coming to terms with history, and to peace with oneself.

Jean-Pierre Beaudoin, Managing Director of Groupe i&e, www.i-e.fr, France

It is a very complicated issue to deal with, and as it often is in these matters, there are no quick solutions. Only solution is to plan for a long term effect, meaning that your country has to develop and implement a communications plan targeting the international community in general and the international press in particular. One comment: When the phrase "Polish Death Camps" is being used, I honestly believe that the majority of all stakeholders understand it as "The Nazi death camps in occupied Poland", meaning that the general perception is that the death camps relate to the Nazi-period in Germany and not to Poland as such.
My suggestion would be:
- I do not believe that Poland has a very bad press all over the world. It must have been concentrated on a few countries/media. Therefore identify those countries/media, who has given you bad press, and start a dialogue with them directly.
- Profile Poland as a EU country who shares all the basic values and rights of a modern democracy, using a variety of tools and activities.
- On a regular basis invite foreign journalists and various KOLs to visit and experience "modern" Poland, give them an introduction to your democracy, to your political life, to your business life, to the educational system, etc. in order to create "ambassadors" for Poland
- Whenever there is a possibility, try to have major events take place in Poland (Sports, Business, Political, Cultural etc) - and provide the international press with all relevant info of modern Poland
- Use your embassies all over the world = let them be visible in their local communities. Have your embassies invite journalists, business people, KOLs etc. to meetings, seminars, lunchons etc. in the embassies
- Let your government enter an agreement with one of the truly global PR agencies (such as Edelman, which is the world's 4th largest with offices and affiliates on all continents - see www.edelman.com) - In Poland the Edelman network is affiliated Business Communications Associates in Warsaw, who will be able to plan, coordinate and implement activities all over the world.

Nils Rasmus Hansen, President BPRV (www.bprv.dk) of Managing Director InformationsGruppen/Edelman Affiliate, Denmark

In Belgium we have always identified Auschwitz with the brutality of the Nazi regime. We still do not identify Auschwitz with Poland in the first place. Many citizens do not even realize that the Auschwitz camp is on Polish territory. Personally, I think that Poland should make an effort in clarifying the role its government played during WWII with regard to the Jewish community and the attitude it took opposing to the German occupation forces, especially with regard to the conditions that made the Warsaw ghetto drama possible. I would strongly recommend that this be done via a major information campaign in collaboration with the press in Europe.

Erwin De Weerdt, Managing Director, ECCO Belgium, PR & EU Affairs

Who says "Poland has a bad press around the world" - I think that's rubbish! You cannot escape the reality of Auschwitz which I – and I am sure the vast majority of Brits - identify consciously and sub-consciously as NAZI death-camps. The worst happen to be in Poland but on a smaller scale were to be found in Germany too. There has always been a feeling of fondness for the Poles since the war when so many of your brave young men played a key role fighting the Germans –especially the bravery of those slaughtered in the Warsaw uprising. A different form of bravery was shown by Lech Walesa and in a real sense Poland was the first country to effectively throw-off the yoke of Communism. Communism has held back the country's growth but now you are in the EU there is a real sense that Poland is beginning to motor economically and the poverty of the past is rapidly disappearing. I have not been to Poland myself but I have several friends who have and they all talk about the transformation and the restoration of many beautiful buildings. If there is a downside to the image this will be cured by tourism - getting as many opinion formers as possible from other countries to see for themselves what is happening in the country. But Rome wasn't built in a day and a new perception of Poland can't be created overnight. But with the ever growing thirst for new travel experiences that Europeans have, I'm sure the right way to go is strong investment in tourism and everything associated with giving the tourist an interesting and enjoyable break is good accommodation, food and leisure/cultural activities.

Michael Smith, Cardiff University, UK

My concern in addressing an image problem such as this, is that taking it head-on could actually do more harm than good. Many people (especially Americans) may not appreciate the details of an historical clarification, but will hear only the repeated terms Poland and Death Camps, no matter how hard you may try to put a wedge between the two. Instead, as part of a larger strategy, I'd work to expand international awareness of other aspects of Poland's heritage and contemporary contributions: art, music, movies, literature, theater, etc. The news cycle on the 60th anniversary of Auschwitz is about run its course. Time to find a new news hook in the world media (at least until the 100th anniversary rolls around).

Steven R. Van Hook, founder of Worldwide Media Relations and www.aboutpublicrelations.net, US

I think perhaps you are labouring under a misapprehension. There is no sentiment in the UK that associates Poland in a pejorative sense with Auschwitz or death camps. This is seen purely as a product of the evil of Nazism. Poland is more often seen as a country that was treated terribly during the Second World War and then suffered further when it was left behind the Iron Curtain in the aftermath. Polish pilots are widely acknowledged to have been a significant force during the Battle of Britain and, to Londoners, the Polish War Memorial in west London is a well-know landmark. If anything, Poland probably suffers more from its association with Communism and the economic lethargy that seemed to lay across what we used to refer to as the Eastern Bloc. By this I mean that former Communist countries are often seen as lacking in the same business instincts as the West. The collective perception is often one of outmoded factories and inefficient industry, the shipyards of Gdansk and similar. Somewhere where there was no incentive to be competitive. To most Brits, Poland is a fairly distant concept though I think the now infamous French separation of 'old' and 'new' Europe has helped put many Eastern European countries more to the forefront of people's minds. Were I to offer any advice at all it would be to emphasise the cultural achievements of Poland, the high standards of education among its workforce, the energy of its people and the hunger it shares with everyone else for prosperity and peace. Poland has proven its resilience and now wants to emerge to take its rightful place among the major nations of Europe and the world. It has considerable resource and now needs to re-establish its own identity as a country in its own right as opposed to a satellite of former regimes. Doubtless most Poles feel this very strongly anyway but, in perception terms, Poland probably has to emerge from what is often thought of here as part of the amorphous entity 'Eastern Europe'. In other words, tell everyone that things have changed and that Poland has a real contribution to make.

Patrick Barrow, Public Relations Consultants Associations (www.prca.org.uk), UK

I am actually quite surprised to hear that this is an issue in Poland in that as far as the vast majority of people in Ireland would be quite aware that Poland was subject (after invasion) to brutal Nazi occupation and the fact that the death camps were located in your country was completely outside of your nation’s control. However, many who have studied the period between the Great War and the outbreak of the Second World War would be aware of the relatively high level of anti-semitic feeling that existed in your country (and in many other European countries at the time) and therefore for PR and media in your country to launch a PR campaign to disassociate Poland from the camps might raise other issues which could prove counterproductive to your overall objective.

Gerry Davis, Public Relations Institute of Ireland (www.prii.ie), Ireland

First, is Poland’s reputation suffering as a result of how the concentration camps are labeled, or are there larger reasons behind the image problem. I am not familiar enough with the image problem you describe to address anything beyond the specifics of your question. From what I have seen in American media, most Americans do not confuse the Polish with the Nazis as the real force behind those camps.
Still, if you think that terms like “Polish concentration camps” are behind an image problem, the best solution is to create a new term that is easy to remember and will likely replace the old term. For starters, they really were Nazi concentration camps that were located in Poland. Still, to provide a perhaps more historical perspective that properly portrays the country of Poland, you may want to think more broadly, finding another word to replace “concentration.”
Poland suffered greatly during World War II, and now so many years later, simply because of those tragic events that took place there, the country is now a destination for the historical traveler, or what is also known as “battlefield tourism.” These Nazi death camps attract tourism to Poland with a sobering and important message, “Never again.” So out of respect to all those who were victimized during the Nazi occupation, I would not suggest anything other than to treat these sites with the utmost respect and dignity in Poland’s travel and tourism work.
At the same time, if Poland wants to reposition itself in the world tourism marketplace, it may do well to conduct promotional campaigns centered on its vacation destinations and other attractions. I know that in my home town, we have a large population of people with a Polish heritage. Chicago is the same. If Poland were to market its “old world” culture to the large Polish-American population, it would help with the country’s image.
I believe marketing Polish culture in America is important to Poland’s reputation in the world for a number of reasons. America is a melting pot of second-generation cultures, including Polish. It is used to celebrating the various heritages of its citizens and residents. America is also home to a strong free and international press. If you succeed at promoting your message here, it will spread more quickly to other countries. But obviously, I would not exclude your nearby neighbors in old and new Europe.
As for how to promote Poland in the U.S., there are the usual ways – advertising, mailings, targeted marketing through Polish-American organizations. But I think the Italians and the Irish already have a good model for how to get Americans excited. The Irish has St. Patrick’s Day, complete with parades and parties that are hardly exclusive to the Irish. The Italians celebrate Columbus Day, in honor of the Italian discoverer of North America. If the Polish were to introduce a day where Polish traditions and cultures are showcased with a massive celebration, then you are in effect invited others to learn more and gain a greater appreciation for all of the good that is Poland.

Tim O’Brien, PR specialist, operates O'Brien Communications, US

Usually, bad public relations are based—in part—on fact. That Poland served as the location of the biggest killing factory ever known to humanity is undeniable. That Polish Jews and other people were killed or displaced systematically is also undeniable. Don’t try to gloss that over. Effective public relations come from truth. If something is wrong with an organization or business and it comes out, the first thing to do is fix it—not try to cover it up or obscure it further. In order for Poland to improve its international image vis a vis Auschwitz and WWII, it needs to show what it has done in the ensuing years to improve tolerance and interfaith understanding at home and abroad. It needs to show what efforts have been expended to make reparation for the horrors it once condoned. I know some will claim that Poland wasn’t responsible for Auschwitz. But that’s like a parent claiming that something bad in his home isn’t his fault—even though it’s his home. WWII and its atrocities were able to last as long as they did—and do as much as they did—because of too many people going along with the bigger group. To pretend this isn’t so—that Poland as a country has no responsibility—is to insult the intelligence of the international community. However, if Poland has taken real action to improve life, interfaith understanding and tolerance, and humanity within its borders since WWII—now is the time to find those good stories and tell the world about them.

Pari Noskin Taichert, PR specialist (www.badgirlspress.com), US

60 Jahre sind seit der Befreiung von Auschwitz durch die Rote Armee vergangen. 60 Jahre, in denen sich die Welt fundamental verändert hat. Der eiserne Vorhang ist gefallen und die Europäische Union erweitert sich gen Osten und legt damit die politische Teilung des Kontinentes in Schwarz und Weiß endgültig zu den Akten.
Auch unsere Gesellschaft hat sich fundamental verändert: Die Allgegenwart moderner Medien und die Beschleunigung der Kommunikation üben einen beispiellosen Druck aus. Die Medien arbeiten wie ein Hochleistungsmotor immer am Anschlag. Journalisten müssen schneller zum Punkt kommen, Nachrichten aus aller Welt jagen beinahe in Echtzeit durch das Internet. Schuld daran sind auch wir, die Leser, Zuschauer, Zuhörer. Allzu oft wollen wir kurze News statt der Analyse und geben uns mit der Oberfläche zufrieden, statt nachzufragen.
Ich bin überzeugt: Wenn hohe Repräsentanten der Europäischen Union und westliche Medien missverständlich von "polnischen Lagern" sprechen, geschieht dies nicht aus bösem Willen. Gedankenlos ist es allemal. Und es zeugt von einer erschreckenden Nachlässigkeit, die uns heute in vielen Bereichen begegnet. Dass Polen sich gegen die Verkürzung historischer Sachverhalte auf eine Drei-Satz-Meldung zur Wehr setzen, ist gut. Denn es öffnet uns vielleicht die Augen, dass auch Sprache Gewalt ausüben und Menschen verletzen kann.
Die Medien stehen daher mehr denn je in der Verantwortung, journalistische Qualität nicht der Stechuhr zu opfern. Insofern ist die aktuelle Debatte ein Symptom - aber nicht die Wurzel des Übels.

Florian Ries, Ries Text Conzept, PR Specialist, www.prportal.de , Germany

Ich verstehe, dass viele Polen den Begriff "polnische Lager" als Beleidigung empfinde, weil die Lager nicht von Polen sondern Deutschen in Polen eingerichtet wurden. Das kann Misssverstaendnisse hervorrufen. Allerdings sind solche Misssverstaendnisse in Deutschland sehr unwahrscheinlich, weil die Tatsachen allgemein bekannt sind und sich der Begriff eingebuergert hat. Nach meiner Einschaetzung ruft der Begriff in Deutschland keine anti-polnischen Assoziationen hervor. Generell halte ich Versuche, Begriffe expost facto umzudefinieren nicht fuer sinnvoll und erfolgversprechend.

Hans Mathias Kepplinger , Mainz Univeristy and Harvard University

I can not say at all Poland might have bad image from the time of the concentration camps. On the contrary - it is quite clear the country was under occupation at that time and recent commemoration of the 60th anniversary of Oswiencim, participation of so many dignities and high levelled decision makers even brought Poland's image to a totally new stage. What I do agree is that more and more people should come to Oswiencim, should know the truth and the history and should not only pay respect to the victims, but must be careful never to happen again.

Maxim Behar, M3 Communications Group, Inc., A Hill & Knowlton Associate (www.m3bg.com), Bulgaria

Our team has had a brief discussion on the issue and has mostly agreed that, in our view, the image Poland has abroad (at list here in UK, and under my personal point of view in Italy too) is not linked with the image of concentration camps (which is instead mainly associated with Germany). We both agreed that, generally speaking, Poland and Polish people have a good reputation abroad. They are perceived as good quality workers and friendly people. If what you feel within the country is different, these negative associations shouldn't stand in the way of Polish organisations talk about other aspects of the country, its history, culture etc and what it the country has got to offer. We would also underline the fact that within the new 15 EU members Poland is considered to be as one of the most advanced country of East Europe (looking at all social parameters required to be a member in the EU). And this we think it also means good reputation and it might be issue to talk about - especially within your national media system. On a practical note perhaps you could do some research (unless you already have) into exactly what perceptions people do hold of Poland and use that as a start point for any 'rebranding' exercise. Also to look at other countries that have faced similar problems to see what they have done. For instance, in a different context, Northern Ireland is trying to throw off the image of 'the troubles' and build itself as a tourist/business/investment destination. We would also suggest monitoring the European media coverage that Poland had in the months previous and after the official entry in EU, and compare these results with other new members. We think you would get good results. Finally, our suggestion is definitely to look at the future, where we are sure Poland with other important eastern countries (such us Czech Republic) will be the pull countries of this European region. This we think it might be the key message.

Fabrizio Falzarano and Colin Farrington, The Institute of Public Relations (www.ipr.org.uk)

Avšitc, is historical fact and is not - in any case - connected wit Poland. Avšvitc is connected with fascism and nazism, and extremely anti-Semitic opinions. It is clear, that Poland will change its image, reputation and perception only with strengthening their industry, product, tourism and education.

Bozidar Novak, PR specialist, www.spem-group.com, member of ICCO (www.iccopr.com), Slovenia

The first thing every public relations person has to do is help their organizations and their management come to grip with the true issues, acknowledge a wrong doing, develop a true positive program, execute that program and inform the world community of what is being done in a positive manner. This is true of corporate management that makes mistakes, governmental agencies and communities. Since our primary focus is company marketing activities, allow me to put our thoughts in marketing terms. Organizations that survive and thrive are those that work in an honest and ethical manner and put people first. Competitors should be our allies, not our adversaries. We need to build meaningful relationships with customers and view employees as partners. All too often in business "we" look for the short-term fix or fast, easy answer rather than in building long-term relationships. The right call is often the tough call but in the long term it is the one that will help ensure the organization succeeds. Poland or none of us can change the past. But the country and the rest of us can make a difference today and in the future. At the same time the country can memorialize these wrong doings not as a painful reminder to the Polish people or to the survivors but rather to ensure we never forget and therefore guard against these acts from happening again. Public relations people are (or should be) uniquely qualified to develop and execute a defense of rationality against the junk science, elitist politics, and immoral anti-human policies. We have to work to debunk the bogus fear-mongering of the political/legal/media/academic complex which is increasingly turning people in virtually every country into communities of paranoid individuals that isolate themselves from others. Public relations people in Poland and elsewhere need to devote as much time in helping the success of mankind as they do in pursuing a living. The Polish public relations community can't hide or ignore the past but they can focus attention on the positive things that are being done today, need to be done and will be done. What happened can be acknowledged without dwelling on it. The Polish public relations community needs to focus on the achievements of today and how the country, its businesses and its population can provide a positive role model by putting people first...

Andy Marken, PR specialist, www.markencom.com , US

This is a complex issue, changing an image is related to changing perceptions. Just putting another image doesn't necessarily relate to other perceptions and behaviours although they may influence them. It's important to understand the underlying relationships, cultures and intercultural relationships, indeed including historical relationships before engaging in publicity activities. Also the motivation to change those perceptions and the image and perceptions in Poland about themselves and others are important to research if any repositioning through mass communication could be effected. It's also important to emphasise that attitude and behavioural changes are difficult to achieve through mass media and requires a more advanced approach including interpersonal and group communication activities.

Eric Koper, President of EUPRERA(www.euprera.eprn.org), Lancashire Business School, UK

I can recommend to look at Mexico as a good example on how to manage and improve the reputation of a country. Mexico is now one of the most visited countries in the world, but this is a result of a long term and strategic effort. In 1990, the country earned 7,7 million dollars from foreign tourists. Last year, Mexico earned 3.484,32 millions dollars. Quite impressive growth! What Mexico did was to promote the country not only as a world-class tourist destination, but as a "experience" with culture (both ancient and modern) as its axis. Right now, Mexico is in the top of mind of millions. Still the country has to face important issues like being perceived as a insecure place with lots of corruption. I think Polonia could present itself as a new, modern European country that look into the future with hope, a country that could offer a strong history and a modern face with well-known athletes, models and other celebrities.

Octavio Isaac Rojas Orduna, PR specialist, http://octaviorojas.blogspot.com, Spain

It really surprised me that Poland is receiving bad comments for preserving the camp Auschwitz, and all of a sudden this became the "Polish Death Camps"! Here in Greece, as far as I can be able to know, no newspaper ever mentioned such thing! To my opinion, as the geographical/political map of the countries have changed many times during the centuries, today all countries should maintain/preserve and show to the world, everything that happened during the path of the time, in their territory, irrespectively of who was the "owner" of the country that time. If what happened was for the good of the humanity so much the better for the then "conqueror”, if it was a horrible thing so much the worst for those that they DID it, and NOT for the country witch they had under their captivity! You should keep it up and pass on the correct information especially to the young's.

Rita Malicouti, Director of Solid Relations (www.solid.gr), member of IPRA and CERP-PRO, Greece

Personally, and having visited Warsaw just a few years ago, I have a very positive and favourable impression of Poland. If you have research that shows external perceptions are negative, my broad suggestion would be that you would need a focused and integrated (PR and advertising) communications campaign that deals specifically with the issue - covering historical facts as well as the Poland of today. I'm sure you and your colleagues would not be short on ideas and activities.

CT Hew, Vice Chairman of GolinHarris (www.golinharris.com), Hong Kong



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Justin E
(24.02.2005 15:14:30)
I’m very surprised that this issue has come up. I know for myself, and most of my generation that was educated in a public school, we were taught that Poland was under the control of Nazi Germany and that Auschwitz was part of Germany and controlled by the Nazi’s. I would think that most of the people in Europe have the same understanding, especially since Germany took over their continent. I think that Poland needs to acknowledge their past, including the fact Auschwitz is in there country, but focus on everything that they are doing today and how they are part of the EU. (http://www.marcomblog.com/index.php?p=73)
Dawn Eason
(24.02.2005 15:13:40)
I agree with Steven R. Van Hook that the situation might be made worse by confronting the offenders. I believe Poland should focus on today and the future, not the past. If they do try to fight the publications that published the phrase “Polish death camps,” I believe it would just be bad publicity for them. (http://www.marcomblog.com/index.php?p=73)
(24.02.2005 15:12:51)
When I hear the phrase “Polish death camps” I immediately think of Hitler and the Nazis. I think of all the suffering that took place in Poland and all over North East Europe. I in no way think of the Polish as having anything to do with the implementation of the death camps. Personally, I have never heard anything negative being said about the Polish in relation to WWII or the concentration camps. I may be wrong, but I don’t think most people interpret that phrase ("Polish death camps") to mean the Polish set up the camps. I think to make a big deal out of it would only draw negative attention to the situation. If it does offend the Polish people to see or hear that phrase, maybe there could be a little note sent to the publications that referred to it in that way, explaining the situation and asking them to be more sensitive in the future. Again, I may be out of the loop on the situation, but I have never felt that Poland had a bad reputation. (http://www.marcomblog.com/index.php?p=73)
Helon B
(23.02.2005 15:25:06)
After reading the suggesstions of others I believe the best way to change Poland’s image of a place where there were “Polish death camps” is to focus and inform people of present conditions in Poland. I agree with Andy Marken that Poland can not avoid issues of the past, but acknowledge it and show how it has changed. Positive accomplishments need to be publicized. You also made an excellent point when referring to Mexico as a country that is promoting what positive attributes it has to offer. I think that if more information was disseminated about Poland’s culture people could understand it is more than a place that once had “Polish death camps". (http://www.marcomblog.com/index.php?p=73)
Courtney Elizabeth
(23.02.2005 15:22:27)
I agree with many of those that gave the opinion that the term “Polish Concentration Camps” merely conjures the image of the horrifying time of Nazi occupation rather than Polish control. Providing Mexico as a paradigm of positive growth gives a starting point to those who are handling the image of the country. Poland’s tourism market will no doubt differ, but it has the same potential for growth. (http://www.marcomblog.com/index.php?p=73)
Dr. Henning von...
(22.02.2005 14:13:37)
Aktion gegen den Begriff "polnische Lager"? Ich war zunächst erstaunt. Was ist daran schlimm? Aber beim Nachdenken merkte ich: das ist schlimm. Vor allem irreführend. Danke für Ihre Aktion. Der Begriff wird aus meinem Wortschatz gestrichen. Dr. Henning von Vieregge director general Gesamtverband Kommunikationsagenturen GWA e.V.
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