Polish PM attends Auschwitz liberation anniversary

PM Mateusz Morawiecki said on Sunday during ceremonies marking the 74th anniversary of liberating the Nazi German death camp Auschwitz by Soviet troops that the Polish state vows to guard the truth about the Holocaust.

"The Polish state acts as a guardian of the truth, which must not be relativised in any way. I want to make a promise here that the truth about those times will be preserved," the prime minster said during observances marking Holocaust Memorial Day at the site of the former concentration camp Auschwitz II-Birkenau in southern Poland. He stressed that Hitler's Germany was responsible for the Holocaust and not the Nazis.

"We must look the truth straight in the eye, so that this terrible, cruel death, which affected all those imprisoned here and in other German extermination camps, that they will not die again," Morawiecki emphasised.

The Sunday ceremony was attended by former prisoners, President Andrzej Duda's representative Wojciech Kolarski, and the ambassadors of Israel and Russia.

Israeli ambassador Anna Azari pointed out that "Auschwitz was chosen as a 'death factory' because of the existing railway infrastructure". She stressed that in the twentieth century, "a freight wagon full of people has become a symbol of terrible crimes against humanity."

Piotr Cywinski, the director of Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum that protects the remains of the UNESCO-listed Auschwitz Birkenau German Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp (1940-1945), pointed out in his speech that words can have destructive power. "The words of hatred poison the imagination and dull the conscience, maybe that is why so many are silent about evil."

Earlier a few dozen former prisoners of Nazi concentration camps laid a wreath of blue and white flowers reminiscent of the camp prisoners' uniforms at the camp's Death Wall, where the Nazis executed thousands of Poles.

The prisoners entered the former camp through the main gate bearing the infamous sign in German "Arbeit macht frei" (Work sets you free).

The Auschwitz concentration camp was built by Nazi Germany in 1940 to imprison Poles. Two years later Auschwitz II-Birkenau was constructed and became the place of extermination of Jews. Nazi Germany killed at least 1.1 million people there, mainly Jews but also Poles, Roma, Soviet prisoners and people of other nationalities.

International Holocaust Remembrance Day was instituted in 2005 by the UN General Assembly. The annual date of the observances coincides with the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp - the main Holocaust site - by the Red Army.