Liberation of Auschwitz, 75 years on – BBC News
Polish experts refute the claims of Russian propaganda that their country does not know the history of the Holocaust
January 27 is the International Day of Remembrance for the Victims of the Holocaust, established by the UN General Assembly on November 1, 2005.
The memorable date was not chosen by chance – on January 27, 1945, Soviet troops liberated the Auschwitz concentration camp (German name – “Auschwitz – Birkenau”), located in the territory of Upper Silesia. By the way, in world practice it is customary to call the death camp Auschwitz, and not Auschwitz, since it was this name that existed in the Third Reich. Although in Russia, due to the inertia of Soviet times, the Polish name is more often used.
This year, the 75th anniversary commemoration was split between Israel and Poland. Last week, ceremonies in memory of the victims of the tragedy were held in Jerusalem, and on January 27 in Poland. Along with the country’s President Andrzej Duda, high-ranking representatives of several dozen states take part in them, including the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy and UNESCO Director General Audrey Azulay, as well as the Chairman of the World Jewish Congress Ronald Lauder. Former prisoners of the Nazi death camp also became guests of honor.
The correspondent of the Russian service of the Voice of America asked Polish experts how the history of the Second World War, and in particular the tragic history of the Holocaust, is taught in their country. And how, in this regard, the role of the Red Army in the liberation of Poland from the Wehrmacht in the period 1944-45 is presented?
“The Holocaust in Poland is referred to as the biggest genocide in the history of mankind”
Fellow of the Polish Institute of International Relations Lukash Yasina (Łukasz Jasina) emphasizes that Poland cherishes the memory of the events of World War II, and memorials have been opened on the sites of former death camps. “These are state museums, the money for which is provided only by the Polish government. As for the Holocaust, it is the most important part of the national memory of Poles. We have many books published on this topic – perhaps more than in any other country in Central and Eastern Europe..
Holocaust Remembrance Day is a very important date in our calendar, therefore commemorative events take place on January 27 throughout the country, even in the smallest cities, such as Hrubieszów, where I was born. Because Polish Jews lived all over the country.
But, of course, we remember not only about the three million Polish Jews who became victims of the Holocaust, but also about all six million Polish citizens of all nationalities who died during World War II, ”Lukasz Yasina said in an interview with the Russian service“ Voices America “.
Political commentator Vitold Yurash (Witold Jurasz) confirmed the words of his colleague: “The Holocaust in Poland is spoken of as the biggest genocide in the history of mankind. For us, this is a very close story, since most of those who died in concentration camps in Poland were Polish Jews, that is, our fellow citizens.
The Holocaust was our national tragedy, because we are proud that Poland was a multinational state, and as a result of what the Germans did, we lost some of our diversity. “.
Regarding the role of the Red Army during the Second World War, Vitold Yurash recalls that in different years its role was different. “In 1939, she brought Poland not liberation, but occupation and assassinations. After the ordinary boys of the Red Army came the executioners from the NKVD, who began to kill the Poles from the very first day. And we cannot understand in any way how it is possible that in Russia these executioners are perceived almost as heroes. By the way, in Germany, unlike Russia, executioners are called executioners..
If we turn to the events of 1944-1945, then this is still another matter. On the one hand, of course, the Red Army liberated us from the Nazi German occupation. But the fact is that after the Red Army, again, were the executioners from the NKVD. But I would not directly compare it with what happened in 1939, because at the end of the war, the NKVD did not arrange shootings in the streets, as it was during the German occupation. But, on the other hand, there were arrests and murders of people, ”says Vitold Yurash.
According to the political scientist, the difference in the perception of Russia by the countries of Western Europe and Poland is that, for example, for the French, Russia is the country of Pushkin and Turgenev, … “And for us, this is the country where Beria, Yagoda and Merkulov were. Although we also do not forget about Pushkin, and about Turgenev, and about my beloved Zemfira “.
At a commemorative ceremony in Auschwitz, Polish President Andrzej Duda said: “With great regret, I took note of the information that during the events at the Yad Vashem Institute there was no mention of Polish participation in the fight against the Nazis, the perpetrators of the Holocaust. Only because of this, I, as President of the Republic of Poland, could not be there. ” And he added that there were many Jews in the ranks of the Polish army that fought on the fronts of World War II, as evidenced, in particular, by the Stars of David on many graves of Polish military cemeteries..
Lukasz Yasina, commenting on the refusal of the President of Poland to travel to Jerusalem to participate in the anniversary events, also recalled: “During the war, Poland lost every fifth citizen. Most of the Jews killed during the Holocaust were Polish citizens. And we do not understand why, for example, the president of a country that, although liberated a part of Europe, but in 1939, she sided with Hitler, could speak in Jerusalem. And without this there would be no Holocaust. I mean Russia “, – said Yasina.
And he continued: “And it is unacceptable for us that the Polish president, the president of the country whose citizens most died in the years of the Holocaust, would not receive the floor at the events in Jerusalem and would not be able to answer President Putin to his“ historical concept ”that he voiced last December “.
“Poland does not support Putin, and he decided to make Poland a” scapegoat ”
The correspondent of the Russian service “Voice of America” also asked her Polish interlocutors what, in their opinion, caused the anti-Polish campaign in Russia during the reign of Vladimir Putin?
In response, Witold Yurash recalled that a few years ago it was customary to say that the tense relations between official Moscow and official Warsaw do not apply to ordinary citizens of the two countries. “But it was, as they say,“ the day before yesterday, ”and today the confrontation has moved on to the interpersonal level. We do not openly send each other “to hell”, ”he states..
As for the anti-Polish propaganda both at the highest level and in the state media, then, according to Yurash, it is explained by two reasons: “First, the lack of foreign and domestic political successes of Russia. And secondly, the emotional breakdown of Vladimir Vladimirovich personally, who, as we know, reacts very sharply. Which, by the way, is rather strange, considering his past as a special services officer “.
One of the important points of the Polish-Russian disagreement, the interlocutor of the “Voice of America” calls the position of Warsaw and Moscow regarding the future of Ukraine and Belarus. “We would like Ukraine and Belarus to become part of the Western community. But the most important thing is for these countries to be able to determine their own future. And this is only possible in a free society, ”said Witold Yurash. And he continued that Russia not only does not have a free society, but Poles currently do not associate the concepts of “freedom” and “democracy” with Russia at all..
At the end of his commentary, Vitold Yurash said that Russia’s foreign policy is most effective when it is dealt with by employees of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, since “Russian diplomats are real professionals.”.
“It’s a completely different matter when the Kremlin is engaged in foreign policy, but when, for example, Vladimir Soloviev (the host of the Russia-1 TV channel – AP) is engaged in it, then this is a real gift for us. Because, of course, there is something to reproach us with, but not that we started the Second World War. In short, it is so stupid that even I would conduct anti-Polish propaganda more professionally, although, of course, I would not denigrate my country, ”he summed up.
In turn, Lukasz Yasina noted that many in Poland do not understand what caused the next attacks from the Kremlin. “We also do not understand why the Czech Republic, Great Britain, France, the United States of America became victims of Russian historical propaganda.?
Probably, during the period of the reorganization of the political system of Russia that he started, for Putin the historical theme is the most important source of legitimacy, which gives him the strength and support of society. Therefore, he attaches such great importance to the solemn ceremony in Moscow on May 9, on the 75th anniversary of the victory..
Poland does not support Putin, it always speaks about its version of history, according to which the Soviet Union was not a liberator, but one of those countries that started World War II, ”said an employee of the Polish Institute of International Relations.
He also noted that the issue with the works of art that were transferred from Poland to the Soviet Union has not yet been resolved. “Taking this into account, Vladimir Putin decided to make Poland a scapegoat. Well, and, of course, he took into account the Polish-Israeli differences that have arisen in recent years, and decided to lure Israel over to his side, “Lukash Yasina said..
And in conclusion, he stressed that among the high-ranking foreign guests to the events in Poland, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin will arrive: “This means that Putin’s hopes for the Polish-Israeli conflict did not work.”.
By the way, during a meeting with Andrzej Duda, Rivlin invited his Polish colleague to visit Jerusalem and stressed that the people of Israel remember that during the war many Poles saved Jews. “Today we would like to extend a hand to the Polish people and ask us to return to the path that we will walk together and shape the future of future generations, while maintaining respect for history and respect for peace for tolerance,” said the President of Israel.