UNITED NATIONS, January 21. /TASS/. Russia’s Ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, on Wednesday gave a lesson in history to his Polish counterpart, Boguslaw Winid by explaining to him who liberated the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.
Churkin had to do it after a bizarre claim by Polish Foreign Minister Grzegorz Schetyna, who told Polish radio that the camp had been liberated by the First Ukrainian Front and the Ukrainians.
“It was the First Ukrainian Front and the Ukrainians who liberated the camp,” he claimed when 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 they who opened the camp’s gates,” Schetyna said.
“It was called the First Ukrainian Front because it had liberated Ukraine from the Nazis before reaching the territory of Poland after severe combat operations,” Ambassador Churkin said.
“Like all other branches of the Soviet Red Army, this front was had the servicemen of numerous Soviet nationalities - the Russians, Ukrainians, Belarusians, Georgians, Armenians, Azerbaijanis, people of Central Asian nationalities, and many many others - more than a hundred ethnic groups all in all,” he said.
“Dear Ambassador Winid, please bring this fact to the attention of your Foreign Minister, who made a rather weird statement on the issue,” Churkin said at a conference at the UN headquarters that had been convened to mark the 70’s anniversary of Auschwitz-Birkenau liberation in January 1945.
“I’m confident he didn’t want to insult so many people at a time,” he said.
It is important to respect the memory of all those who liberated Europe and to stop mocking over history, Russian Foreign Ministry said in a comment on the situation around Grzegorz Schetyna’s allegations.
“It is really difficult to imagine that a government official of the level as high as Schetyna’s could be so ignorant,” the comment said.
“It’s 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 the Bryansk Front,” the comment said.
“Most obviously, the reasons for this are different,” the ministry said. “We believe some individuals should stop deriding history and let their anti-Russian hysteria push them to the brink of disrespect for those who didn’t spare their lives to liberate Europe.”
The Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp was the site where the Nazis annihilated more than a million Jews, as well as numerous Polish intellectuals and Soviet prisoners of war. Various sources put the overall number of people killed there at 1.5 million to 2.0 million, including 15,000 Soviet citizens.
More than 200 Soviet soldiers gave their lives for liberation of 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 of November 1, 2005.