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Canada’s Polish community upset over exclusion from Auschwitz visit

TORONTO, Jan. 25 (JTA) — Members of Canada’s Polish community are criticizing Prime Minister Jean Chretien for not inviting any of their representatives to join him in a visit to Auschwitz. Chretien was accompanied to the former death camp by representatives of the Canadian Jewish Congress, including its national president, Moshe Ronen, and by Ronen’s 67-year-old father, Mordecai, an Auschwitz survivor. Chretien’s office described his trip to Auschwitz as a personal visit, made at the start of a weeklong trip to Europe. “This is an insult to the Canadian Polish community,” said Ala Gettlich, general secretary of the Canadian Polish Congress, whose grandparents died at Auschwitz during World War II. Gettlich said this first visit by a sitting Canadian prime minister to Poland should have been a cause for rejoicing. Instead, she and other representatives of Canada’s Polish community are regarding it as a snub. “The failure of the prime minister to extend a similar invitation to us will have profound political implications,” wrote two officials of the congress, Lucien Conrad and Bernard Wisniewski, in a letter of protest to the Prime Minister’s Office. Later in the week, Chretien was scheduled to lay a wreath in Ukraine at a memorial to the victims of Stalin’s brutal regime.

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