Remarks by President Andrzej Duda on the World Holocaust Forum in Jerusalem
What is your view on the proceedings of the World Holocaust Forum in Jerusalem and the statements that were made there? The Russian President's statement, as it seems, was different than we expected. There were no attempts to rewrite history. How do you rate these statements?
I can only put it this way: I am extremely grateful to the Vice President of the United States, Mr. Mike Pence, for having mentioned Poland in his speech; he mentioned what was happening on the Polish territories occupied by the Nazi Germans, how Polish culture was being destroyed, how the names were changed. And he explained where the name ‘Auschwitz’ came from, why this concentration and extermination camp had such a name in German. I am grateful for that, because it is an important constituent of history, the one which, thanks to the words of the Vice President of the United States, could again be heard in the world today.
I also wish to thank for having mentioned Poland and the Poles on a number of occasions, including the martyrdom of Poles during World War II. Please, bear in mind that 3 million out of all 6 million of Holocaust victims were Polish citizens. These were Jews who were Polish citizens. So we should have been given our own valid place there, and I was very keen to be able to speak there and to be able to tell the truth of that time that these were citizens of the Republic of Poland who were murdered there. 3 million Polish Jews perished and 3 million Polish citizens who were not of Jewish origin also died.
The losses sustained by Poland were enormous. Practically every Polish family lost someone, and many Polish families of Jewish origin were wiped out all of them. That was the truth that I wanted to be able to communicate there bowing my head in memory of those who were murdered.
But I was prevented from doing so. Despite our diplomatic efforts, I was not given the right to speak there. I am sorry to say so but perhaps the reason for such an arrangement could be seen today during the commemoration ceremony. I do not know if you have noticed the fact but among the films shown that documented the course of World War II, no recognition whatsoever was given to the Polish participation in the fight against Germany. I think it had been in advance prepared this way: history was distorted. The organizer, the foundation of Mr. Moshe Kantor, distorted history, completely ignoring the participation of our Polish soldiers in the struggle against the Nazi Germany: the fact that they fought on the western front as the Polish Army, that they fought in the south, on the Italian front, for example, as the Polish Army, shoulder to shoulder with other Allies, that they fought on the eastern front, side by side with the Red Army. After all, there were also Polish soldiers there, there was the Polish Army – and this has been omitted today which to me is a very saddening situation.
This proves again that I made the right decision not to be present there, because had I been there, it would have been difficult for me to bear this situation, and evidently, I would have to do so in silence, not being given the floor to speak there. I am glad we have not attended, because we should not endorse such a falsified historical narrative. We have to tell the truth and we have to speak out loud.
That is why I am pleased that we have managed to launch such a broad media campaign: both the Prime Minister and I have recently given a whole series of interviews for foreign media, we have had articles published in the most important media in Western Europe and the United States - precisely so that the world would hear the truth about Polish destinies during World War II, about the fate of Polish Jews and about the memory we cherish and always will.
But we also demand honesty and historical justice - and we will insist on it. And this is my duty, also as the President of the Republic of Poland: to constantly, unceasingly call for historical truth and historical justice for the Poles.