Poland’s president says he will not attend Auschwitz commemoration event in Israel because he was not invited to speak


(JTA) — Polish President Andrzej Duda said that he would not attend a Holocaust memorial event in Israel because he has not been invited to speak there.

“As the [Polish] president I will not take part in the event that will take place on Jan. 23 in Jerusalem,” he said on Tuesday, according to Polish media reports.

Duda said that he had been asking organizers of the Jerusalem event to allow him to speak during the ceremony, as the representative of the country with the “largest number of citizens who were brutally murdered by Nazi Germans in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.”

Some 300,000 Jewish Poles and 75,000 other Poles were killed in Auschwitz.

Duda also is angry that Russian President Vladimir Putin will give a speech at the event at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, which will commemorate 75 years since Red Army troops liberated the Nazi Auschwitz camp in Poland. The camp was liberated on Jan. 27, a date that the United Nations in 2005 established as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. More than 30 world leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron, have said they will attend.

“Putin will be able to speak, the president of Germany, the president of France, which had a government cooperating with Germany at the time, but the Polish president will not be able to speak,” Duda said.

Poland’s Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum will host a 75th anniversary event on Jan. 27.

Poland and Russia have a tense relationship complicated by a bloody past. In December, Putin accused Poland of cooperating with Hitler in 1938. He called Poland’s pre-war ambassador to Nazi Germany a “scum and an anti-Semitic pig” for praising Hitler, saying the Nazi dictator deserved a monument for his idea to expel Jews from Europe.

In 2018, Poland’s parliament passed a law stating that the it is illegal to blame the Polish nation for Nazi crimes. Israel protested the legislation, saying it limited free speech and research about the Holocaust, including about the actions of Polish citizens who killed Jews during the occupation and shortly after it. The exchange triggered a diplomatic crisis in Israeli-Polish relations.

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