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Official at Auschwitz museum describes Polish minister’s remark as ‘political debate’

January 22, 2015, 21:32 UTC+3 WARSAW
“The Auschwitz Nazi death camp was liberated on January 27, 1945, by Red Army soldiers who represented different nationalities," Pawel Sawicki said
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© ITAR-TASS/ЕРА/Leszek Szymanski

WARSAW, January 22. /TASS/. Officials at Auschwitz-Birkenau state museum believe the remark that Poland’s Foreign Minister Grzegorz Stechyna made on the liberation of the camp by the Soviet Red Army in January 1945 was part of a discussion of political issuers.

“We won’t comment on Grzegorz Stechyna’s remark, since he made it in the course of a discussion concerning political issues,” Pawel Sawicki, the official spokesman for the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial Site and Museum told TASS.

“The Auschwitz Nazi death camp was liberated on January 27, 1945, by Red Army soldiers who represented different nationalities, and Ukrainians were among them, too,” he said.

Sawicki said the museum did not have lists of soldiers or any other documents concerning them.

TASS turned to Sawicki for a comment in connection with reports on Polish Foreign Minister Grzegorz Schetyna’s interview with the Polish radio where he misinterpreted the fact the camp had been liberated by the First Ukrainian Front of the Red Army, saying it was the Ukrainians who had set the prisoners of Auschwitz free.

“It was the First Ukrainian Front and the Ukrainians who liberated the camp,” he said answering a question about why the Polish authorities had failed to invite President Vladimir Putin to the official events at the end of January, which will accompany the celebrations of the date.

“Since the Ukrainian soldiers were there on that January day, it was them who opened the camp’s gates,” Schetyna said.

It is important to respect the memory of all those who liberated Europe and to stop mocking history, Russian Foreign Ministry said in a comment in the wake of his allegations.

“It is really difficult to imagine that a government official of the level as high as Mr. Schetyna’s could be so ignorant,” the comment said.

“This is common knowledge that Auschwitz was liberated by the Soviet Red Army, the soldiers of which represented all the nationalities and fought with equal heroism,” it said.

“Incidentally, the First Ukrainian Front had the official name of the Voronezh Front prior to November 1943 and before that it was called the Bryansk Front,” the comment said.

Polish Ambassador in Moscow, Katarzyna Pelczynska-Nalecz, came up with explanations on her part on Thursday, saying Polish society was well aware of the multi-ethnic composition of the Soviet Red Army

“I’d like to stress definitively and unambiguously a great distance separating our country from the political games around Auschwitz-Birkenau,” Pelczynska-Nalecz said. “The Polish authorities are treating that place, its liberation and the tragedy that unfolded there with utmost seriousness and duly respect.”

“This is a sacred place for us,” she said. “That’s why we call for avoiding the unnecessary emotional debates, especially on the eve of the 70th anniversary of liberation of the camp and the International Holocaust Day,” Pelczynska-Nalecz said.

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