Poles Liberate Auschwitz from Soviet
Exhibition A new stumbling block has surfaced in
Russian-Polish relations. The Russian exhibition at the museum at
Auschwitz concentration camp in that country has been closed, and the
museum's management will not reopen it until the occupation of Polish
territory by the USSR is acknowledged. This move has been interpreted as a
political action in Russia.
The National Exhibition
of the USSR at Auschwitz was opened in 1961 and has been modernized several
times since then, the last time being in January 2005, for the 60th anniversary
of the liberation of the camp, when it was visited by Russian President
Vladimir Putin. About 1.1 million people lost their
lives at the camp. It had 7000 inhabitants when it was liberated by the forces
from the 1st Ukrainian Front on January 27, 1945. The Seim of the People's
Republic of Poland declared the three-camp complex a Monument to the Martyrdom
of the Polish and Other Peoples in 1947. It was included on the UNESCO list of world heritage sites in 1979 and
receives over half a million tourists a year.
Krystyna Oleksy, deputy
director of the museum, told Kommersant that the
Russian exhibition was closed because its modernization was not completed by
the Russian side. However, Malgorzata Szniak, cultural attache at the Polish
embassy in Moscow, citing the Polish Ministry of
Culture, said that the administration of the museum
objected to the new exhibition prepared by Russian specialists without the
administration's agreement. It contains contradictions with other national
exhibitions at Auschwitz, she explained, adding that the ministry was not
taking sides in the dispute and the initiative came from the museum. I do not
think it is political, she commented.
Piotr Setkiewicz, director of the
museum's archive, told Kommersant that, besides minor questions of
spelling and an alleged inaccuracy in numbers of victims, the director of the
museum holds that all natives of occupied territories, that is, Western
Ukraine and the part of Belarus that were transferred to the USSR under the
Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939, should be depicted as citizens of Poland.
Museum spokesmen said that a letter explaining those objections had been sent to
the Russian Ministry of Culture, but no reply to it had been
The reaction in Russia has been sharp. We sought a reasonable
compromise when we worked on that exhibition and tried not to sin against
history, chairman of the Federal Agency for Culture and Cinematography Mikhail
Shvydkoi told Kommersant. I didn't receive any letter from Auschwitz.
Mikhail Margelov, chairman of the Federation Council Committee on Foreign Affairs
promised to raise the issue at the April PACE session.
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