On 23 January, Russian President Vladimir Putin took part in a summit dedicated to the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the death camp Auschwitz and International Holocaust Remembrance Day in Jerusalem. Auschwitz, a Nazi concentration camp located in Poland where over a million Jews were killed between 1941 and 1945, was liberated by the Soviet Red Army on 27 January 1945.
Poland's President Andrzej Duda snubbed the event even though Israeli President Reuven Rivlin promised him a platform to speak, according to The Jerusalem Post. Warsaw and Moscow earlier found themselves in a row over a controversial stance towards the Jewish issue voiced by some top level Polish officials before the Second World War.
Polish Tolerance is Its "Full Glory"
Next week Poland will host a Holocaust remembrance ceremony in Auschwitz, however, Warsaw did not extend an invitation to Russia though it was the Soviet Army that liberated the concentration camp, notes Aleksander Kwasniewski, Polish political commentator, former parliamentarian, and director of the bureau of the party Polski Blok Ludowy (2002-2004).
"Warsaw politicians… are making every possible effort to downplay the significance of the celebrations in Israel despite the fact that leaders of major states will come to Jerusalem…, while the list of participants of the [Holocaust] events in Poland is somewhat more modest", says the Polish political observer.
According to Kwasniewski, the Russian president "did not say anything that historians and people did not know about".
"No one grew hot over German historian Rolf-Dieter Müller's notion in his book The Enemy Stands in the East (Der Feind steht im Osten) that the Poles were looking for Adolf Hitler’s favour and planned a joint campaign against the USSR and the final solution of the 'Jewish question'", he recollects.
He believes, however, the truth of the matter is that "for some, historical facts acquire special significance when it is Putin who speaks about them".
The political commentator underscores that Vladimir Putin did not mention many other embarrassing facts about Poland's persecution of ethnic minorities between the first and second world wars.
To name just a few, Kwasniewski refers to the “ghetto at the desks”, a discriminatory measure of allocating special places in classrooms for national minorities, including Jews, in the mid-1930s; “numerus clausus”, the practice of restrictions for the education of Jews that existed in some Polish universities; the circumstances of the death of the first president of Poland, Gabriel Narutowicz who was killed by Polish nationalists for supporting the Left and national minorities and therefore given the nickname "national president of the Jews".
"If someone is outraged that the Poles were accused of anti-Semitism, one should delve into history before expressing indignation, and one will see a Polish tolerance in 'free Poland' in its full glory", Kwasniewski underscores.
Poland Rewriting WWII History
The commentator subjects to ridicule Polish historian Marek Kornat who insisted that while the Soviet Army liberated Auschwitz, it did not liberate Poland: "Judging from this statement it follows that it would have been better if [Poles] had extended their stay at Rudolf Hess' 'resort'", Kwasniewski notes.
The political observer highlights that, likewise, Moscow cannot agree with the claim that the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was the “trigger” for the Second World War, citing the partition of Czechoslovakia in Munich in 1938 – where Poland was one of the beneficiaries – which opened the door to Hitler's march in Europe.
Addressing the Defence Ministry Board on 24 December 2019, Russian President Vladimir Putin recalled the words of Polish Ambassador to Nazi Germany Jozef Lipski who promised in 1938 to build "a beautiful monument in Warsaw" to Hitler if the latter succeeded with his plans to expel Germany's Jews to Africa.
For his part, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki accused Russia of attempts to distort history and called the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 23 August 1939 a “military alliance” between the USSR and the Nazis, failing to add, however, that Poland inked its non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany five years earlier, on 26 January 1934.
Commenting on the upcoming event in Poland, Kwasniewski suggests that President Duda is planning to use the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of Auschwitz's liberation as the start of his election campaign.
According to the observer, the Polish president is likely to focus his upcoming speech on attacks on Russia, whose representative will not be able to respond, given that Moscow's leaders were not invited to the Polish event.
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