Nazi German Stutthof concentration camp liberation anniversary marked
On the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi German Stutthof concentration camp on Saturday, Polish President Andrzej Duda, Deputy PM and Culture Minister Piotr Gliński, Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz and his German counterpart Heiko Maas honoured its victims.
In his message, President Duda paid homage to "over 110,000 Poles (...), as well as Jews, Russians and Roma people, who were imprisoned and murdered in the Nazi German Stutthof concentration and annihilation camp." He also expressed his conviction that "an independent Poland will always honour the martyrdom of heroic residents of the Pomerania region, who paid the highest price for their loyalty to the homeland."
Gliński recalled that, on May 9, 1945, Russian soldiers liberated just a small group of 150 inmates, "out of over 120,000 imprisoned Poles, Jews, Russian, Lithuanians, Ukrainians, Hungarians and Roma, many of whom in January 1945 had been evacuated by the Germans in 'death marches' or by sea, on 'death barges,' which cost the lives of thousands of people.
Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz declared that preserving the remembrance of the victims of the Nazi German terror, for the future, was our mutual task.
"We can never allow for the experience of those tragic days to be repeated," he underlined.
"Today, we pay homage to victims who suffered and died a martyr's death, at the hands of German occupiers, on Pomeranian soil," Czaputowicz was quoted as saying on Twitter.
"Sztutowo, as well as Piaśnica located a few dozen kilometres away, were the sites of the murders of Poles from Gdańsk and the entire Pomerania region," the official said, adding that the persecution and extermination of Poles had started just after the outbreak of World War Two.
The minister said that the first transport of Polish teachers, as well as political party and administration staff members, had reached the Stutthof camp on September 2, and that on January 11, 1940, the Germans shot to death the first group of Poles living in Gdańsk.
Minister Czaputowicz also said that during the entire period of its functioning, the Stutthof camp "had become a living hell for 110,000 people of 28 nationalities." Recalling that the anniversary of the end of World War Two was observed on May 8, the official said that "75 years ago, millions of people were liberated from the German terror."
"But this day had not given full freedom to many Europeans, including Poles. Over the next decades, we found ourselves in the Soviet sphere of influence, we were deprived of independence and the communist system had been imposed on Poland," he was quoted as saying.
"Today's Germany is Poland's most important neighbour and partner in the EU and NATO. Together with our German partners, we have been taking part in building a united Europe on the foundation of Polish-German reconciliation. But, at the same time, the heritage of the past and care for preserving the historical truth is an inseparable part of our relations," Czaputowicz said while expressing his gratitude to his German counterpart, Heiko Maas, for his message marking the Stutthof camp's liberation.
"Let the sacrifices of the people who suffered and were murdered in the Stutthof camp be never forgotten by the world - as a warning to the next generations," the Polish official concluded.
Minister Maas underlined that the Germans admitted their guilt and responsibility, "which will never cease to exist." He also said that the Stutthof concentration camp symbolised the insanity to which nationalist anger and blind hate against others can lead to.
He added that the invitation to the observances was very important to him because it was proof of the deep trust between the two countries and showed that Poland was ready to forgive. He stated that the Germans were extremely grateful for this and for everything which united Poles and Germans today. We have been jointly meeting the challenges facing us as neighbours and Europeans. "And I am grateful that today I can add: as friends," he said.
The Stutthof camp started operation on September 2, 1939, near a town of the same name (today Sztutowo in Poland's northern Pomorskie province). Initially intended as a prison for the local Polish population, it was transformed into a concentration camp in 1942 and began to receive inmates from various parts of Europe.
An estimated 65,000 people perished in the camp, 28,000 of whom were of Jewish descent. According to historians, the camp's female population numbered around 46,000.
The Stutthof Museum opened in 1962 at the initiative of former camp inmates.
To read more about Stutthof death camp click here.