Polish official invites Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to see concentration camps

Polish official invites Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to see concentration camps

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the U.S. Representative for New York's 14th congressional district, ignited a firestorm of controversy on Monday with a statement made in a live Instagram video.

The congresswoman compared the Trump administration's border detention centers - which have been accused of overcrowding and abuse, including thousands of complaints about the sexual abuse of migrant children - with Nazi concentration camps.

During World War 2, the Nazi party sent millions of Jews to concentration camps and death camps located in Germany, Poland and other countries. The prisoners were forced to live and work in overcrowded facilities with little to no food or water, nor protection from the extreme weather in winter and summer. Six million "undesirables" perished from malnutrition and disease, or were executed by toxic gas and gunfire.

Ocasio-Cortez expanded on her original statement on Twitter, writing: "This administration has established concentration camps on the southern border of the United States for immigrants, where they are being brutalized with dehumanizing conditions and dying. This is not hyperbole. It is the conclusion of expert analysis."

She added, "And for the shrieking Republicans who don’t know the difference: concentration camps are not the same as death camps. Concentration camps are considered by experts as 'the mass detention of civilians without trial.' And that’s exactly what this administration is doing."

Merriam-Webster defines a concentration camp as "a place where large numbers of people (such as prisoners of war, political prisoners, refugees, or the members of an ethnic or religious minority) are detained or confined under armed guard  - used especially in reference to camps created by the Nazis in World War II for the internment and persecution of Jews and other prisoners."

Ocasio-Cortez' use of the term 'concentration camp' to describe migrant detention centers drew supporters, including a Jewish historian, a concentration camp expert and actor George Takei, who spent part of his childhood at an Arkansas internment camp for Japanese-Americans during WWII. Others, such as Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, blasted Ocasio-Cortez for her choice of words.

Following the criticism, AOC defended her statement on Twitter, stating that the Department of Homeland Security "ripped 1000s of children from their parents & put them in cages w inhumane conditions. They call their cells 'dog pounds' & 'freezers.' I will never apologize for calling these camps what they are."

She added, "We are calling these camps what they are because they fit squarely in an academic consensus and definition. History will be kind to those who stood up to this injustice. So say what you will. Kids are dying and I’m not here to make people feel comfortable about that."

In a letter posted online on Thursday, Polish parliament member Dominik Tarczynski invited Ocasio-Cortez to Poland to view multiple Nazi concentration camps firsthand:

"I write to you out of distress in having learned of your recent statements regarding concentration camps. As you should be aware, the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (Nazi) who led Germany, were responsible for the darkest period in my country’s and our whole continent’s history by devising a chain of concentration camps in order to exterminate those who they believed were subhuman...

“While under German Nazi occupation, a number of concentration camps were set up in my country, Poland. It has caused a deep wound that persists on our proud Polish and European history that we must deal with every single day, and that we reaffirm to one another can never be forgotten, and never allowed to happen again."

Nazi concentration camp in Austria Credit: Getty

"This is why when someone cheapens the history, or uses it for political point-scoring, we become agitated and upset. I understand that there are heightened tensions in your politics right now, but I would urge severe caution in attempting to leverage phrases such as 'concentration camp for political ends..."

Tarczynski concluded his letter by asking Ocasio-Cortez to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau, Treblinka, Belzec, Sobibor, and Majdanek so the lawmaker can "study the concentration camps here for real" and "see first hand how different it is from [the] immigration processing centers on the U.S. border." As of this writing, AOC has not responded.