President Putin’s chief of staff, Sergei Ivanov, claimed on the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz that Poland is attempting to manipulate the legacy of the Second World War.
Answering questions from Russian journalists, Ivanov disparaged President Bronislaw Komorowski’s recently announced plans to host a WWII victory celebration with EU leaders in Gdańsk on 8 May, clashing with Russia’s own tributes on 9 May.
”Commemorating victory in Gdańsk is a strange idea in my opinion,” Ivanov said.
”What kind of victory was there in Gdańsk?” he reflected.
The Russian dignitary stressed that the war began in Gdańsk.
In September 1939, Poland attempted to stave off a German invasion of the Westerplatte peninsula on the fringe of the Free City of Gdańsk.
For Poles, Gdańsk is also the birthplace of the Solidarity trade union, which brought about the collapse of the Moscow-backed communist regime in Poland. Many regard the Soviet liberation of German-occupied Poland in 1944/45 as the beginning of a second occupation.
”It seems to me that [President Komorowski’s initiative] is one of these attempts to lie somewhat about history, to change it, to correct it, to retouch it,” Ivanov said of the Gdańsk tribute.
Ivanov’s reference to ”attempts” alluded to Polish Foreign Minister Grzegorz Schetyna’s recent declaration that Ukrainians not Russians were the liberators of the Nazi German death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Technically, the gates of Auschwitz were wrenched open by the 1st Ukrainian Front, on 27 January 1945. However, these soldiers fought as part of the Soviet Union’s Red Army.
Ivanov said Schetyna’s comments were an attempt ”to insult the sacred remembrance of the people who died here.”
President Vladimir Putin was not invited to the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, amid tensions over the Russian-Ukrainian crisis.
While critical of some of Poland’s initiatives, Ivanov nevertheless commended the care taken to look after monuments to Red Army soldiers who fell during the liberation of Poland from Nazi German rule.
“In spite of everything I want to thank the Polish authorities for the fact that most of the monuments to Soviet soldiers – I emphasize, the majority – are in good condition, and these are looked after by ordinary people, local authorities.” (nh)
Picture: President Putin’s chief of staff, Sergei Ivanov, lays a wreath during Tuesday’s commemorations marking the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Photo: PAP/Jacek Bednarczyk