Polish president decides not to attend Holocaust forum in Jerusalem

2020-01-07 19:06 update: 2020-01-11, 12:24
Photo: PAP/Radek Pietruszka
Photo: PAP/Radek Pietruszka
Polish President Andrzej Duda on Tuesday announced that he will not take part in the 5th World Holocaust Forum at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem on January 23 due to the fact that Poland will not be allowed to address the event.

The president said the government's stance was in line with his.

Duda said he saw no reason why he could not address the forum given the fact that the floor was offered to the presidents of Russia, Germany and France, as well as representatives of Great Britain and the United States, while the event would mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, a death camp that Nazi Germany built and operated on occupied Polish territory.

According to Duda, the lack of a Polish voice during the conference was "falsification of history."

Duda also expressed concern about Russian President Vladimir Putin's recent accusations that Poland was complicit in the outbreak of World War II, a claim that caused outrage in Poland and met with protests from a range of countries, including ambassadors of Germany, Great Britain, the United States and Israel, as well as Polish officials and Poland's Jewish community.

If Putin chose to follow up on his rhetoric, Poland would have no possibility to react to his words.

The Polish president also said that January 27, International Holocaust Remembrance Day, is the most important date in commemorating Holocaust victims. Poland will hold official ceremonies marking the day on the site of the former Nazi German death camp Auschwitz.

The event will bring together Holocaust survivors and heads of state and government from around the world, Duda said, adding that tributes will also be paid to Red Army soldiers who fought to liberate the camp. "It is a great sacrifice by the Russian nation and the nations of the former Soviet Union," he said.

The Yad Vashem forum, titled "Remembering the Holocaust, Fighting Antisemitism," is organised by the World Holocaust Forum Foundation in cooperation with Yad Vashem, under the auspices of the Israeli president.

Nazi Germany established the Auschwitz camp in 1940, initially for the imprisonment of Poles. Auschwitz II-Birkenau was established two years later and became the main site for the mass extermination of Jews. There was also a network of sub-camps in the complex. The Germans killed at least 1.1 million people at Auschwitz, mainly Jews, but also Poles, Roma and Soviet prisoners of war.

Auschwitz was liberated by the Red Army on January 27, 1945. In 1947, the former camp was declared a national memorial site. (PAP)