In the "Freedom" article in the Dec. 31 millennium special section, Eugene Robinson describes the great astronomer Mikolaj Kopernik (better known as Nicholas Copernicus) as the "son of a German merchant."
Copernicus was born in Torun, Poland, and attended college in Krakow, Poland. His father conducted a copper business both in Krakow and Torun. The family originated in the 700-year-old village of Koperniki, in the province of Opole.
Confusion over the family's nationality has arisen because of the the fact that the Prussian Teutonic knights were in power in that area of Poland during this era, but Copernicus's father is known to have given financial support against the Teutonic Order, and Copernicus's maternal grandfather fought for the Jagellonian kings against the order during the Battle of Malbork.
In your "Thought" article, Michael Farquhar refers to Copernicus as "a Polish visionary," although he states that Copernicus's 1543 ideas were "ignored for two centuries." While his ideas may not have been universally accepted for hundreds of years, they were hardly "ignored." Galileo was persecuted for promoting them ideas in the 1630s, which David Von Drehle notes in the "Mystery" section.
One last point: Richard Leiby's "Hate" article describes World War II concentration camps as "Polish death camps." There were never any "Polish death camps." There were only Nazi death camps in occupied Poland.
--J. M. U. Robbins