Rewriting history? Polish FM says Ukrainians liberated Auschwitz, Russia puzzled

Young survivors at the Auschwitz, liberated by the Red Army in January 1945 (Photo from wikipedia.org)
The Polish FM’s statement that it was the Ukrainians who liberated the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp has puzzled Moscow. Russia’s UN envoy remarked that the Soviet Army, which liberated the camp, was actually multinational.

“The 1st Ukrainian front and Ukrainians liberated [the concentration camp], as on that January day there were Ukrainian soldiers, so they opened the gates of the camp,” said Foreign Minister of Poland, Grzegorz Schetyna, speaking on Polish radio on Wednesday.

Poland's Foreign Minister Grzegorz Schetyna (Photo from wikipedia.org)He was answering a question related to invitations to join the ceremonies marking the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau by the Red Army on January 27, 1945.

Following the comment, Russia’s UN envoy Vitaly Churkin reminded Schetyna that the Soviet Army had liberated the concentration camp, adding that the front was called first Ukrainian “as it liberated Ukraine from the Nazis before reaching Poland through battles.”

Like all other parts of the Red Army, [the front] was multinational and consisted of Russians, Ukrainians, Belarusians, Georgians, Armenians, Azerbaijanis, representatives of the peoples of Central Asia, and many others – more than 100 ethnic groups of the Soviet Union,” Churkin said addressing the Polish UN envoy, Bogusław Winid, speaking at the UN conference commemorating the liberation of the camp on Wednesday in New York.

Churkin urged Winid to explain the grave mistake to the Polish FM saying that: “I’m sure he didn’t intend to offend so many peoples.”

Memory of WWII must be respected – Moscow

“It is our common duty to the victims of genocide and future generations – to protect the truth about WWII,” said Churkin.

“Despite the shocking number of genocide victims, we see Waffen-SS veterans marching in European cities, which Nazis tried to demolish during at whatever cost. The Nazi past is being glorifies, neo-Nazism is on the rise,” he added.

It is important to respect the memory of all those who liberated Europe, Russia’s Foreign Ministry also said on Wednesday commenting on the Polish FM’s statement.

“It is really difficult to imagine that a government official of a level as high as Schetyna’s could be so ignorant,” the comment said. “Incidentally, the 1st Ukrainian Front had the official name of the Voronezh Front prior to November 1943, and before that, it was the Bryansk Front.”

“We believe some individuals should stop deriding history and letting their anti-Russian hysteria push them to the brink of disrespect for those who didn't spare their lives to liberate Europe,” the ministry added.

UK-based journalist and writer Neil Clark told RT that today, history is being rewritten for political purposes.

“The fact of the matter is that it was the Soviet Red Army which liberated that appalling camp Auschwitz...” he said. “Yet now in 2015 we are rewriting history to write out the role of the Red army liberating Auschwitz for political purposes.”

READ MORE: Ukraine president gets Polish invitation to Auschwitz anniversary, unlike Putin

In 2015 no specific invitations for the commemoration event were issued, as Polish authorities have passed this duty to the Auschwitz Museum and the International Auschwitz Council. The organizers of the ceremony stated that all nations, contributing funds to the site, had been asked if they were going to participate, without personal invitations.

Putin will not be attending the event, as he has not received any invitation, said his spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Russia will be represented by the Head of the Presidential Administration Sergey Ivanov.

The commemoration of the liberation of the Nazi death camp is set to take place on January 27. It comes 70 years after the Soviet troops liberated it in 1945. About 1.5 million victims were imprisoned in Auschwitz, many of them Soviet citizens.