Polish Nationalists March on Auschwitz to Protest 'Non-inclusive' International Holocaust Day

Organizer Piotr Rybak - who was previously jailed for burning effigy of Haredi Jew - accuses the government of remembering only the Jews and excluding memory of Poles, Roma and Soviet prisoners

Piotr Rybak of the Polish independence movement and other far right activists lay wreaths at the "death wall" to pay tribute to Polish victims, in Oswiecim, Poland, January 27, 2019.
\ KACPER PEMPEL/ REUTERS

A far-right Polish activist gathered Sunday with other nationalists outside the former Auschwitz death camp to protest Poland's government.

The man, Piotr Rybak, and about 45 others carrying the national flag, hope to enter the Holocaust memorial site to place a wreath on the 74th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp.

Rybak accuses the government of remembering only Jews and not murdered Poles in yearly observances at the memorial site.

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That accusation is incorrect. The Auschwitz observances are inclusive and ecumenical, paying homage to all of the camp's victims.

The incident comes amid a surge of right-wing extremism in Poland.

In 2017, Rybak was sentenced to three months in prison for burning an effigy of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man during an anti-Muslim protest against admitting Syrian refugees into Poland.

Rybak later claimed the figure was meant to represent Jewish-Hungarian philanthropist George Soros, who advocated for an open European immigration policy.

Most of the 1.1 million people murdered by Nazi German forces at the camp during World War II were Jews. Other victims include Poles, Roma and Soviet prisoners of war.

Earlier in the day, former prisoners of Auschwitz placed flowers at an execution wall at the former Nazi German death camp on the 74th anniversary of the camp's liberation and what is now International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The survivors wore striped scarves that recalled their uniforms, some with the red letter "P," the symbol the Germans used to mark them as Poles.

Early in World War II, most prisoners were Poles, rounded up by the occupying German forces. Later, Auschwitz was transformed into a mass killing site for Jews, Roma and others.

A ceremony is planned later Sunday near the ruins of the gas chambers to honor the 1.1 million people killed there and all Holocaust victims, one of several worldwide observances.

The camp was liberated by Soviet forces on January 27, 1945.