Duda's address at Auschwitz will be tribute not polemic - aide
President Andrzej Duda will a give "speech of memory and respect" at Poland's commemorations of the Nazi-German Auschwitz death camp's liberation, and not a polemic against Russian President Vladimir Putin, Duda's aide, Krzysztof Szczerski, said on Tuesday.
The main events marking 75 years since the Nazi German concentration and extermination camp was liberated will be held on its former site in southern Poland on January 27. The ceremony will be hosted by Duda, who will deliver the opening address.
Meanwhile, Jerusalem will host the World Holocaust Forum on January 23, where Duda has been invited but will not attend as he has not been offered a chance to speak along with the presidents of Russia, Germany and France, as well as representatives of Great Britain and the United States.
When asked by public radio broadcaster Trojka whether Duda, in his Auschwitz address, would answer any new accusations from Putin about Poland's co-responsibility for World War Two's outbreak, Szczerski said that the Polish president's speech will pay tribute to those who liberated Auschwitz-Birkenau and, "above all, to the victims of this criminal system organised in Poland by the Third Reich".
In Szczerski's view, this is not a topic to be used for political ends. "I do not think that we will respond to Russian provocations in a way that would derogate the memory of those we are talking about," he added.
Szczerski's comments come in the wake of ongoing controversies around Putin's accusations against Poland at a December 20 sitting of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). Addressing the meeting, Putin said the immediate cause of World War Two was not the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact but the 1938 Munich Pact, which secured the cession to Germany of Czechoslovakia's Sudeten German territory and which Poland attempted to use to secure its claims to the Zaolzie region, over which it was in dispute with Czechoslovakia.
"Therefore, this will not be a speech that is to be polemical with President Putin, only to show memory and respect," he said.
The Germans established the Auschwitz camp in 1940, initially for the imprisonment of Poles. Auschwitz II-Birkenau was opened two years later and became the main site for the mass extermination of Jews. There was also a network of sub-camps in the complex. The Germans killed at least 1.1 million people at Auschwitz, mainly Jews, but also Poles, Roma and Soviet prisoners of war.
In 1947 the camp was declared a national memorial site.