Commemorating Holocaust a moral duty of Poles - president

Tomasz Gzell/PAP

Poland on Monday held a commemorative ceremony marking the 80th anniversary of the sealing off of the Warsaw Ghetto, which opened another stage of the implementation by Nazi Germany of the planned extermination of the Jewish nation.

"The commemoration of the Shoah and its historical background is a moral duty for the whole of humanity, but even more so it rests on us as citizens of a free Republic of Poland - inhabitants of the land upon which the German Nazis set-up their horrendous death factories and where millions of victims of the Holocaust died at their hands," President Andrzej Duda wrote in a letter addressed to participants in the ceremony.

"Eighty years have passed since one of those events which have become the symbols of the Second World War, and in particular of the occupation of Poland as well as the crimes committed back then against the citizens of the Republic. This anniversary marks yet another stage of the tragedy: the implementation by Nazi Germany of the planned extermination of the Jewish Nation," reads the letter.

On November 16, 1940, Nazi Germans sealed off the Warsaw Ghetto making it the largest closed "Jewish district" in occupied Europe. Behind its walls were some 400,000 Jews most of whom were murdered in the extermination camp of Treblinka in 1942.

"Pre-war Warsaw was one of the largest centres of the Jewish population in the world. The occupation authorities artificially carved out, from the urban fabric of our capital city, a territory inhabited by a sizeable Jewish population and subsequently turned it into the largest ghetto in occupied Europe," wrote the president.

The Warsaw ghetto was established on October 12, 1940. A German decree required all Polish Jews from Warsaw to move into a designated area which German authorities sealed off from the rest of the city with a brick wall in November 1940. At its peak, the ghetto's population reached over 400,000 Polish citizens of Jewish descent.

The first wave of mass deportations from the Warsaw ghetto to the Treblinka German Nazi extermination camp started on July 22 and lasted until September 12, 1942, embracing some 300,000 Polish Jews.