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Polish president boycotts Holocaust remembrance in Israel

WARSAW – Poland’s president said Tuesday that he won't attend a commemoration in Israel to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp because he was not asked to speak at the forum along with world leaders who include the presidents of Russia and Germany.

President Andrzej Duda was not among the foreign dignitaries named as speakers for the Jan. 23 World Holocaust Forum in media releases sent out Tuesday for the event at Jerusalem's Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, whose countries invaded Poland at the start of World War II, are listed along with French President Emmanuel Macron and Britain's Prince Charles.

Poland's prime minister and foreign diplomats have voiced concerns about recent remarks by Putin and some Russian commentators that imply that Poland was partly responsible for the war's outbreak in 1939.

Duda called those comments a “sort of post-Stalinist revisionism” that tries to shift blame to Poland, which was the first country victimized by Nazi Germany and lost some 6 million citizens during World War II. Auschwitz was located in Nazi-occupied Poland.

Following consultations with the government Tuesday, Duda said hewould skip the forum where he would not be allowed to present a factual picture.

Yad Vashem said the Jerusalem forum's floor was mainly given to representatives of the four Allied powers that liberated Europe from the “murderous tyranny of Nazi Germany,” as well as the president and prime minister of Israel.

To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Soviet army's liberation of Auschwitz on Jan. 27, 1945, Poland plans to hold its annual observance at the former camp's site on Jan. 27, which is observed as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Over 1 million people perished at Auschwitz, mostly European Jews, but also Poles, Roma, Russian prisoners of war and others.

Amid tense bilateral relations, the Kremlin has indicated Putin will not be attending the ceremonies in Poland.

World War II started Sept.1, 1939 when Nazi Germany invaded Poland. Soon after, the Soviet Union annexed parts of eastern Poland as part of a non-aggression pact signed with Nazi Germany that included a plan to carve up Poland.