News Poland Politics & International

Polish President to skip Auschwitz anniversary in Israel

Warsaw, Poland – Poland’s President Andrzej Duda announced he won’t be attending the event commemorating the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz in Israel later this month after he was not allowed to give a speech.

Poland’s Andrzej Duda pulls out of Auschwitz anniversary in Israel

“I will be clear: we have decided that I as the Polish President will not participate in the event”, Duda said, after declaring that keeping him from delivering a speech and honouring the Poles who died during the Holocaust was tantamount to a “distortion of the historical truth”.

World leaders are due to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp at a January 23 ceremony held at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem. Yad Vashem said that representatives of the Allied powers that liberated Europe from the “murderous tyranny of Nazi Germany” were scheduled to speak – including Russian President Vladimir Putin, German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier, French head of state Emmanuel Macron and Prince Charles from the U.K.

In his comments, Duda made clear that he needed “to be able to speak alongside other presidents” to keep the historical truth from being distorted – a direct attack against Vladimir Putin, whose recent comments regarding Poland’s role in World War II have sparked outrage in Warsaw.

Poland protests against Russia’s historical ‘revisionism’

“It is unacceptable, at a conference dedicated to the Holocaust, for Vladimir Putin to be one of the key speakers and for Poland’s president not to be able to speak”, deputy-Foreign Minister Paweł Jabłoński declared on Tuesday.

Russia and Poland have been at loggerheads with each other in recent weeks after Putin accused Poland of collaborating with Nazi Germany and of being responsible for the start of World War II. The comments drew the ire of Polish officials in Warsaw, with President Duda accusing the Kremlin of “post-Stalinist revisionism”.

According to other reports, Andrzej Duda decided not to attend the event in Jerusalem due to the fact it was co-organized by the Israeli Foreign Ministry, headed by Israel Katz who declared last year that Poles “suckle anti-Semitism with their mothers’ milk”.

Poland itself will be organizing an official commemorative ceremony a few days after the Israel event, on the site of the Auschwitz concentration camp on January 27, which marks the actual 75th anniversary of the liberation and is commemorated worldwide as part of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day since 2005.

Although the Soviet Army liberated the camp, where more than one million people are estimated to have died (including nearly 400,000 Polish citizens, most of them Jewish), Russian President Vladimir Putin was not invited due to the growing tensions between the two countries.

Tense relations between Poland and Israel

Relations with Israel have also deteriorated since 2018, when Poland passed a controversial law making it illegal to blame the Polish state or nation for Nazi crimes during World War II.

The bill was eventually watered down after prompting an international backlash, but provoked renewed tensions with Israel. Less than a year ago, Polish Premier Mateusz Morawiecki also cancelled a trip to Israel after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed that some Poles collaborated with Nazi Germany. A few months later, the Polish Ambassador to Israel was assaulted and spat on in the streets of Tel Aviv.

Approximately six million Polish citizens, half of them Jewish, were killed during World War II.