Speaking at observances marking the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of WWII in Wielun, central Poland, on Sunday, President Andrzej Duda stressed that this terrible war started with an act of barbarity, an attack against common people.
Present at the observances was also German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
The first bombs of WWII were dropped on September 1, 1939, on the town of Wielun. The Luftwaffe bombings started at 4:40 a.m. Before the war, Wielun had around 16,000 residents and was situated only 21 kilometres away from the German border. The first bombs killed 32 people, all patients and staff of the local hospital.
"This was the Second World War, which ravaged the world, which will never be forgotten since we must never forget it. We must never forget it even when all the eyewitnesses are gone," he said.
Referring to the presence at the ceremonies of German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, President Duda thanked the German head of state for his attendance at the observances.
Andrzej Duda said that looking at the German president, he saw a man "who has come with humility, with his head bowed, to pay homage (...), to share the pain."
The Polish president stressed that "remembering history, we would be able to build the friendship of Poles and Germans in decades to come."
Addressing the observances, the German president said that the bombing of Wielun marked the beginning of what was going to happen over the next six years, and which was to lead to the destruction of Polish and European culture.
Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that this was all meant to make room for insane visions of a person, who wanted to dominate all Europe.
The German head of state admitted that "still too few Germans have knowledge about these events," and stressed that the time had come to change this, and that all the places destroyed by Germans should have their rightful place. "We must find new, proper forms of their commemoration also in Germany and in Berlin," he added.
The German president said that despite the fact that one could not change the course of history, Poland extended its hand to Germany in order to achieve reconciliation. He expressed his gratitude for this extended hand.
The official also said that Germany will always be grateful for Poland's struggle for freedom, which led to the fall of the Iron Curtain, and owing to which the road leading to a free and united Europe was open. (PAP)