The Polish President Andrzej Duda will not attend the Holocaust Memorial event in Israel to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, as organizers would not allow him to speak there. Duda announced this in a statement, according to Deutsche Welle.
The event, scheduled to take place on January 23 at Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Remembrance Centre, is the Fifth World Holocaust Forum, and set to attract over 40 world leaders.
Five foreign leaders are scheduled to give addresses at the event – Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Emmanuel Macron, Prince Charles of the U.K., German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and a senior official from the US. On January 5, President Duda expressed his concern about the chosen speakers on Polish state television, TVP Info, saying it was a “prerequisite” that he should also be allowed to speak at the Forum:
“I turned to the organizers with the expectation that as a representative of the country whose most citizens were brutally murdered in Auschwitz-Birkenau, that I would also be able to speak there,” he said.
Polish citizens were the primary victims of Auschwitz – of the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust, three million were Polish Jews. The camp was built in occupied Poland, in territory which had been annexed to the Third Reich following the 1939 invasion.
Yad Vashem responded to Duda’s concerns earlier in the week, saying “the leaders addressing this event represent the four main powers of the Allied Forces.” They added that “the citizenships of the victims of Auschwitz have no bearing on the choice of leaders who will address the Fifth World Holocaust Forum.”
These developments have also stoked rising tensions between Poland and Russia, over comments from the Russian President at the end of December, which implied Poland was partly responsible for the beginning of World War II. Before Duda announced he would no longer be attending the event, Paweł Jabłoński, Undersecretary of State for the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said on Polish Radio:
“It is unacceptable that Vladimir Putin was one of the main speakers at a conference devoted to the Holocaust, and that the Polish President could not comment.”
Marek Magierowski, the Polish Ambassador to Israel, tweeted that: “Yad Vashem and the Israeli authorities have been aware of President Andrzej Duda’s request to speak at the event on January 23 for at least four months.”
The ceremony in Jerusalem falls days before Poland’s own commemorations at Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum on January 27, Holocaust Memorial Day.
/By Juliette Bretan
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