Russia, Poland Feud Over Who Liberated Auschwitz

Moscow responds sharply to Polish statement that Ukrainian soldiers, rather than Russians, liberated the death camp.

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AuschwitzCredit: AP
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Moscow has reacted sharply to a statement by the Polish foreign minister that Auschwitz was liberated by Ukrainians, rather than Russians, calling his words "sacrilegious and cynical."

In an interview this week, Polish Foreign Minister Grzegorz Schetyna said that “the First Ukrainian Front and Ukrainians liberated [Auschwitz], because Ukrainian soldiers were there, on that January day, and they opened the gates of the camp and they liberated the camp.”

Schetyna's statement came during a discussion about the expected absence of Russian President Vladimir Putin from a ceremony scheduled to take place at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum on January 27, the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the death camp by Red Army troops.

“Auschwitz was liberated by the Red Army, which included Russians, Ukrainians, Chechens, Tatars and Georgians, among others,” said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

His ministry called Schetyna’s words about Auschwitz a “mockery of history [that] needs to be stopped.”

Relations between Moscow and Poland deteriorated following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last March and its subsequent annexation of Crimea. Poland and other central and east European governments see Russia’s actions in Ukraine as presaging a possible threat to their own sovereignty.

Putin’s absence from this year’s ceremony has been attributed to Polish reluctance to host him, though Schetyna said the decision was the president's.

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