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Russia scorns Polish claim that Ukraine freed Auschwitz death camp

January 22, 2015, 17:26 UTC+3 VIENNA

Speaking on Polish radio on Wednesday, Polish minister Schetyna said Ukrainian soldiers had “opened the gates" at Auschwitz

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Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial Museum

Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial Museum

© ITAR-TASS/Anatoly Strunin

VIENNA, January 22. /TASS/. The British chairman of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) has entered the debate over nationalist and extremist ideology as Russia rejected the claim by Polish Foreign Minister Grzegorz Schetyna that Auschwitz extermination camp was liberated by Ukrainians fighting in units of the First Ukrainian Front.

Right-wing ascendancy in Europe was challenged on Wednesday by Sir Andrew Burns, the United Kingdom's first Envoy for post-Holocaust issues, telling the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Vienna: “Genocide is not a closed chapter in history. It is a threat which manifests itself in real life. The memory of the Holocaust is not only an attempt to look back. We understand that its causes have not been eliminated and lessons have not been learnt.”

The attack on satirical French newspaper Charlie Hebdo was a reminder that nationalist and extremist ideology had not been destroyed, Sir Andrew said, adding that a wave of hatred was sweeping over many countries. Under these circumstances, “the task of government is to enhance the security of society without endangering European values”, he added.

Speaking on Polish radio on Wednesday, Polish minister Schetyna said Ukrainian soldiers had “opened the gates" at Auschwitz, drawing a riposte from Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, telling reporters on Thursday that the Polish foreign minister’s statement was blasphemous and cynical.

He told TASS: “I cannot even comment on the Polish foreign minister’s statement that Auschwitz was liberated by Ukrainians. Auschwitz was liberated by the Red Army — Russians, Ukrainians, Chechens, Georgians, Tatars were all there.”

Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp was the site where the Nazis annihilated more than a million Jews as well as Polish men and Soviet prisoners of war. Sources put the overall number of people killed there at between 1.5 million and 2 million, including 15,000 Soviet citizens. More than 200 Soviet soldiers gave their lives to liberate the camp and the nearby town of Oswiecim.

January 27, the day on which the camp was taken by Soviet troops, is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, established by a resolution of the UN Security Council in November, 2005.

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