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Poland says refusal to cooperate with Moscow on Sobibor museum not aimed against Russia

August 30, 12:42 UTC+3 WARSAW

The camp was shut down in 1943 after an inmate uprising led by a Soviet officer

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Archeologists work on the site of the former Nazi Death Camp in Sobibor, Poland

Archeologists work on the site of the former Nazi Death Camp in Sobibor, Poland

© EPA/WOJCIECH PACEWICZ

WARSAW, August 30. /TASS/. Warsaw’s refusal to cooperate with Moscow on the Sobibor museum project is not a negative step aimed against Russia, Poland’s Deputy Minister of Culture and National Heritage Jaroslaw Sellin said in an interview with the Polish Press Agency, published on Wednesday.

Russia was invited to take part in the project to renovate the Sobibor museum and memorial in 2013. The project had been initiated by Poland, Israel, Holland and Slovakia, whose representatives comprise the organizing committee. Russia accepted the invitation and expressed readiness to make a significant financial contribution, but the further consultations with Poland concerning Russia’s participation produced no results. In July, news came that a decision had been made to carry on with the project without Russia involved. Moscow was puzzled by the change in the position of the Netherlands, Slovakia and Israel, thus the three countries’ ambassadors were summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry.

"I hope that they [the ambassadors] managed to clarify that this was not a negative step against Russia but a positive one, aimed at completing the work on a new memorial place in the former Sobibor death camp," Sellin said adding that "Poland has never expressed any negative views" concerning Russia’s participation in the project.

According to the Polish deputy minister of culture and national heritage, "Russia made a request to be included in the management committee fairly recently."

"At a committee meeting, we made a common decision that since the committee member states had been working together for ten years and were actually close to completing the task, there was no sense in including a new country at the last moment," Sellin went on to say.

"We want to implement the project with the countries that have been together from the very beginning. This is why it was a positive decision and not a negative one," he added.

"As for the memorial place, the actual form of the museum and its territory, the committee made all the decisions a long time ago," Sellin pointed out. "We do not discuss how it all should look like, so even if Russia entered the committee, it would have been unable to change anything," the Poland deputy minister of culture concluded. At the same time, he confirmed that Russia would be invited to participate in the events dedicated to the 75th anniversary of the Sobibor uprising.

The Sobibor extermination camp operated from May 1942 to October 1943. According to various estimates, over this period of time, 150,000 to 250,000 Jews from Poland and other European countries were suffocated in gas chambers. The camp was shut down after an inmate uprising led by Soviet officer Alexander Pechersky.

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