For the first time, no Russian delegation was invited to a ceremony commemorating the liberation of the old Nazi death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau in modern-day Poland.
The Soviet Army freed the camp in occupied Poland; hence Russia is frequently represented during the celebration.
However, in the aftermath of Moscow’s unjustified invasion of Ukraine this year, the Auschwitz-Birkenau museum refused to admit Russian officials, and its director compared the Ukraine war to the horrors of the Holocaust.
In response, Russia accused the museum of seeking to “rewrite history.”
At the event on Friday, museum director Piotr Cywinski stated that Nazi “megalomania” created Auschwitz and that a “same sick megalomania” and “similar hunger for power” drove Russia’s destruction of Mariupol and Donetsk.
Speaking to an audience including camp witnesses, he warned that “once again, innocent people are being murdered en masse in Europe.”
“Russia has resolved to destroy Ukraine after failing to capture it. Even while we stand here, we see it every day. As a result, standing here today is challenging.”
In response to the decision, Russia stated that Soviet soldiers who liberated Auschwitz would not be forgotten.
“No matter how our European ‘non-partners’ devised in their attempts to rewrite history in a new way,” Russia’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wrote in a sharp social media post.
At the event, survivors of Auschwitz shared their concerns about the consequences of the war in Ukraine.
Zdzislawa Wlodarczyk, a Polish survivor, claimed she was “scared” to learn what was happening in the East.
She told the audience that she arrived in Auschwitz as an 11-year-old due to the Warsaw Uprising, a failed attempt by the Polish resistance to liberate the city from German occupation in 1944.
She and her 7-year-old brother remained in the camp until the Soviet troops liberated it.
Auschwitz stated, “The liberating Russian army are now at war with Ukraine. Why? Why? That is what politics is all about”.
Throughout the conflict, the Polish people have held steady in their support for Ukraine, hosting hundreds of thousands of refugees in their homes and providing military assistance to their neighbors.
Russian officials have also held commemorative activities, with Vladimir Putin meeting Russia’s senior rabbis on Thursday eve of Remembrance Day.
The Russian leader stated that he was “pursuing a policy meaning nothing like this in humanity’s history will ever happen again.”
Russia’s Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar has commented about his sadness that Russia has been excluded from the commemoration, stressing that “these political games have no place on Holocaust day.”
“This is certainly a disgrace for us,” he told AFP, “since we well know and remember the role of the Red [Soviet] Army in the liberation of Auschwitz and the victory against Nazism.”
The celebration on Friday commemorates the 78th anniversary of the Soviet army freeing the concentration and extermination camp in German-occupied Poland, where the Nazis slaughtered over one million people.
Auschwitz-Birkenau was built as part of the Holocaust, a process that began with anti-Jewish discrimination and culminated with six million Jews being exterminated because of who they were.
In total, 1.1 million individuals died in the camp, including about one million Jews from around Europe, Poles, Soviet POWs, Roma, and Sinti.