Poland's voice must be heard, says Israeli ambassador

The Israeli ambassador to Poland, Ben Zvi, said on Thursday that the Polish president's voice must be heard in Israel and the United States, as he referred to President Andrzej Duda's decision not to attend the World Holocaust Forum in Jerusalem on January 23.

Duda's decision was due to the fact that Poland will not be allowed to address the event. Duda said he saw no reason why he could not address the forum given the fact that the floor was offered to the presidents of Russia, Germany and France, as well as representatives of Great Britain and the United States, while the event would mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, a death camp that Nazi Germany built and operated on occupied Polish territory.

Ben Zvi told the private RMF FM radio station that "the Polish president was invited first." "The Forum decided that speeches will be delivered by the representatives of the Big Four and Germany. It was the organisers' decision. It is being done by Yad Vashem and it's their format; it's an institution that enjoys full autonomy," he said.

The ambassador was asked whether the Polish president should speak at the forum. "I don't know whether at this forum or any other, but I think that in general, the Polish president's voice must be heard in Israel, here and the United States."

He added that every anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz has its own format. "For example, the Polish president will make a speech in Auschwitz on January 27, but not the Israeli president," Ben Zvi said.

The World Holocaust Forum 2020, titled "Remembering the Holocaust, Fighting Antisemitism," is organised by the World Holocaust Forum Foundation in cooperation with Yad Vashem, under the auspices of the Israeli president.

Nazi Germany established the Auschwitz camp in 1940, initially for the imprisonment of Poles. Auschwitz II-Birkenau was established 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.

Auschwitz was liberated by the Red Army on January 27, 1945. In 1947, the former camp was declared a national memorial site.