Polish president spurns Yad Vashem event after refused speaking slot

Poland’s president has rejected Israel’s invitation to attend the Yad Vashem event after he was refused a request to speak.

By David Isaac, World Israel News

Polish President Andrzej Duda announced on Tuesday he won’t attend the Fifth World Holocaust Forum at Yad Vashem on January 23 after he was refused his request to speak at the event.

“As the [Polish] president, I will not take part in the event,” he said at a press conference, Reuters reported.

He said he disagreed with the fact that other leaders – from Russia, France, Britain, Germany and the U.S. – would speak while Poland’s leaders were to be denied the privilege.

Yad Vashem issued a statement in response confirming that Duda would not speak at the two-day event.

“The leaders addressing this event represent the four main powers of the Allied forces, which liberated Europe and the world from the murderous tyranny of Nazi Germany,” a museum spokesperson told Euronews.

“It is important to note that of the 1.5 million victims of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, some 1.1 million were Jews who were murdered simply because they were Jewish.”

Duda said that the reason he wanted to speak was “to respond to the lies of Russian President Vladimir Putin.”

Poland and Russia have engaged in a heated back-and-forth over collaboration with the Nazis and responsibility for World War II.

The argument was sparked by a European Union resolution adopted in September stating that the 1939 nonaggression pact between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany “paved the way for the outbreak of World War II.”

Russia condemned the resolution and focused its ire specifically on Poland.

Speaking in December at the Defense Ministry, Russian President Vladimir Putin said of the Poles, “Essentially, they collaborated with Hitler. It’s clear from archival documents.”

He then referred to Warsaw’s ambassador to Berlin on the eve of the war as a Nazi collaborator.

“He was a bastard, an anti-Semitic pig, you cannot put it in any other way. He expressed full identification with Hitler in his anti-Semitic views,” Putin said.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said in response: “Without Stalin’s complicity in the partition of Poland, and without the natural resources that Stalin supplied to Hitler, the Nazi German crime machine would not have taken control of Europe. President Putin has lied about Poland on numerous occasions, and he has always done it deliberately.”

Despite the Polish president’s decision to pull out, Israel views the coming Forum as a success.

Over forty presidents, prime ministers and royal households from Europe, North America and Australia will attend.

Entitled “Remembering the Holocaust, Fighting Antisemitism,” the Fifth World Holocaust Forum is organized by the World Holocaust Forum Foundation in cooperation with Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center.

The Forum is marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and International Holocaust Remembrance Day.