Poland’s president has told leaders of the country’s Jewish community and Israeli diplomats that he was “amazed” to learn that he would not be speaking at a major event in Israel on Jan. 23 to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
Andrzej Duda confirmed that he would not attend the commemoration at Yad Vashem — Israel’s national Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem — which will be attended by leaders from over 40 countries. Poland has strongly objected to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invitation to speak at the gathering just weeks after he accused Poland of having started World War II.
Duda urged his guests to focus on commemoration events in Poland instead.
“It is in Poland, then occupied by Nazi Germany, that the ashes of the victims are scattered,” he told his visitors, who included Poland’s chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich, Israel’s current ambassador to Poland, Alexander Ben Zvi, and a former Israeli ambassador to Poland, Sheva Weiss, who also holds the title Knight of the Order of the White Eagle.
During the meeting, Duda also thanked the Association of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland for its support and “unequivocal stand on the Polish side” in the wake of Putin’s comments — made on five separate occasions in the final week of Dec. 2019 — that Poland’s actions were partially responsible for the outbreak of the war in 1939.