Does Putin deserve invitation to be guest at Auschwitz ceremony?

This year, the world celebrates two important dates: 70 years of victory over fascism in Europe and the 70th anniversary of the liberation of prisoners of one of the most terrible Nazi concentration camps by soldiers of the Soviet Army. Both of these dates already start to show how one can rewrite the history of Europe.

Indeed, it becomes much easier to alter an official version of history as days of war become a matter of distant past, and the number of living witnesses and participants of that war decreases inevitably. Today, they argue who started the war, who fought in it on whose side, who sacrificed their lives, and who, in the end, actually won the most terrible war of the 20th century.

Here, as they say, there is nothing personal - just politics.

Auschwitz (German name Auschwitz-Birnekau) was not just a "correctional camp," like Dachau, but a real death camp, from which there was only one way out - death.  More than half a million prisoners had been killed in the camp. As many as 350 soldiers of the Soviet Army were killed during the liberation of the camp. It appears that it is impossible to doubt the fact that it was Soviet soldiers, rather than the troops of allied forces, who liberated Auschwitz. Yet, if you do want to rewrite history your own way - you can go ahead and try.

As explained by representatives of the Polish government, they do not send official invitations for the ceremony. That's a good excuse that the government of Poland found. It is the Museum of Auschwitz and the International Council of Auschwitz that invite official guests for the ceremony, and it is these two organizations that send invitations to officials. It was even said that organizers want to pay more attention to former prisoners, rather than present-day official personas. 

Polish leaders do not invite Putin to Auschwitz

However, ten years ago, the then head of Poland, Aleksander Kwasniewski, personally invited the President of Russia for the official ceremony in memory of victims of Auschwitz. It has been quite some time, and the view of history in its new version has changed a lot. Nowadays, it is generally believed that Europe had two enemies: Nazi Germany and the communist Soviet Union.

And suddenly, in the hubbub of discussion, it just so happens that the Prime Minister of Poland, while in Kiev on an official visit, personally invited Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to the celebrations in Poland. He did not just invite Poroshenko, but expressed a hope that "that Mr. President will honor us with his presence during the celebrations to mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the German SS concentration camp in Auschwitz-Birkenau." 

It appears that Moscow has lost the symbolic right to be a legal successor to the winners of Nazism, and Kiev has obtained such a right. The President of Ukraine, where Ukrainian troops methodically destroy rebellious civilians in the south-east of the country right now, deserves to become the legal successor of the winners. What?! It goes about the president, who is ready to glorify Ukrainian nationalist movements and raise OUN UPA movements to the rank of national heroes - the movements, who arranged the massacre in Volyn and worked in harmony with Nazi troops.

Nevertheless, the head of the country, whose soldiers broke the backbone of Nazism when the majority of European countries preferred to simply cave in to Nazis and try to live in a new environment, does not deserve to receive a personal invitation from Polish leaders.

This does not seem to be a surprise really, if one looks at what Polish media say and write. They slam Russian President Putin as a "Serial Terrorist" ("Gazeta Polska"), a "Criminal Without Punishment" ("Wprost") and the like.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Yatsenyuk said during an interview to a German television that all remember "the Soviet invasion of Germany and Ukraine." Has anyone put Yatsenyuk, "the new historian," in place for what he said?

However, not everyone agrees with this interpretation of historical realities. German historian Götz Aly wrote in an article published in the Berliner Zeitung newspaper: "It was not Poland, not the West, not the "civil society" or NATO, but Soviet armed forces that liberated Auschwitz. Therefore, celebrating the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz without inviting representatives of Russia is thoughtless, insensitive and politically irresponsible."

According to him, the German Chancellor carries a lion's share of responsibility for the situation: "The Chancellor pretends that she does not have to do anything with it. Obviously, she believes that it will be correct, when President Gauck (of Germany - ed.) will appear as a "good guy" on January 27 at Auschwitz to talk about values and historical responsibilities, while the Russians, the "bad guys," will stay at home. Strange? No - disgusting," the historian wrote. 

In the spring of 2015, Russia is gathering world leaders, the heads of the anti-Hitler coalition to celebrate the 70th anniversary of victory over Nazi Germany. The celebrations are likely to become celebrations of discord, rather than unity. 

Alya Pustova


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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov