WARSAW – Poland appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday to refrain from using World War II and Holocaust victims for current political goals and pointed to wartime documents in which the Polish government called on the Allies to save Jews.
Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Szymon Szynkowski vel Sek made the appeal before a conference in Israel this week to mark 75 years since Soviet troops liberated the German Nazi death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Putin, who will be one of the key speakers, recently alleged that Poland bears some blame for the war and accused Poland's government of the time of anti-Semitism. Polish President Andrzej Duda decided to boycott the conference, saying he wasn't offered a chance to speak.
In a recent interview with Israeli state TV, Duda said that Putin is "consciously disseminating lies about history.
“This way he is trying to erase the responsibility of (Josef) Stalin's Russia for starting World War II jointly with Hitler's Germany,” Duda said in comments aired Monday.
Szynkowski vel Sek said Tuesday that if distortions and untrue allegations are repeated at the conference on Thursday in Jerusalem, Poland will point to historic documents and facts to counter them.
He named efforts by Poland's resistance and the government-in-exile in London to gather and share with world leaders the facts about the mass extermination of Jews by occupying Nazi Germany. One such document is Poland's report on the extermination of Jews that various government leaders received in 1942, when Auschwitz-Birkenau was operating.
He mentioned Jan Karski, who gave his first-hand account from the Warsaw Ghetto to U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1943, and Capt. Witold Pilecki, who volunteered to be taken by the Nazis to Auschwitz-Birkenau to later bear witness to its atrocities.
From 1940-45, around 1.1 million people, mostly Jews from across Europe, but also Poles, Roma and Russian prisoners of war, were killed at the camp.
On Monday, observances with the participation of foreign leaders and survivors will take place at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial to mark 75 years since it was liberated by Soviet troops.
World War II began in 1939 with Nazi Germany's military invasion of Poland, followed two weeks later by the Soviet invasion.