“Words can insult or distort reality,” announces a heavily promoted, ominous trailer made by the Auschwitz Museum:
As such, the museum recently released a computer program offering the public “a simple tool for correcting memory errors for those who write about the past, so words won’t lie to future generations.”
But don’t be fooled. The downloadable plugin isn’t about fighting hate, anti-Semitism or Holocaust denial. Rather, the computer program designed by the Auschwitz Museum — ever on the cutting age of thoughtfulness — alerts users whenever the phrase “Polish death camp” or “Polish concentration camp” is written.
The idea behind the program — which converges with a new initiative by Poland’s ruling conservative Law and Justice party to suppress discussion of Polish violence against Jews — is that mislabeling camps in Nazi-occupied Poland as “Polish” is hurtful to Polish people.
Once the program is downloaded, a window pops up whenever the inciting phrase is written. The error is identified, and replacements are suggested. For PC users, the program only works on Microsoft Word. Mac users, however, can be treated to alerts on social media as well — so if you’re a PC user with a penchant for tweeting the phrase “Polish death camp,” now might not be the time to make the switch.
We don’t mean to trivialize semantic sensitivity in writing about history — we’re just wondering if this particular automated buttinsky is the way to go. But kudos to the techies who created it: For what it is, the program works. In other words, “Clear nail polish” will not become “clear nail Nazi death camp.”