- http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20070403/lf_afp/polandrussiajews_070403183830 Russian exhibition at Auschwitz sparks dispute Tue Apr 3, 2:38 PM ET WARSAW (AFP) -Message 1 of 1 , Apr 3, 2007View SourceRussian exhibition at Auschwitz sparks dispute
Tue Apr 3, 2:38 PM ET
WARSAW (AFP) - Musuem authorities at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camp have closed a Russian exhibition there after Moscow changed it to describe eastern European citizens as Soviet, a spokesman said Tuesday.
The row was over how Russia had labelled territories and populations that fell under Moscow's control after Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin carved up the region under the 1939 Nazi-Soviet pact, museum spokesman Jaroslaw Mensfelt told the PAP news agency
Citizens of the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, as well as inhabitants of former Polish and Romanian territories, were described as "Soviet" victims of the Nazis, said Mensfelt.
"The inhabitants of these regions cannot be considered as citizens of the Soviet Union, because they never gave up their original nationality or willingly adopted Soviet citizenship," said Mensfelt.
The refusal to open the display at the museum -- housed at the original Auschwitz camp set up by the Nazi occupiers on the outskirts of the southern Polish town of Oswiecim -- has sparked an angry reaction from Russia.
In Moscow, the foreign ministry described the move as "more than bizarre".
"The memory of the victims of Auschwitz should not be caught up in historical and political speculation," said the ministry in a statement.
Russia's Jewish Congress also expressed its concern.
"Political reasons that could have influenced this decision should not said prevail over historical justice," said Vyacheslav Kantor, president of the Congress, in a statement received by the Interfax news agency.
"Nobody has the right to question the heroism of the Soviet soldiers who took part in the liberation of the biggest death camp," he added.
But the International Auschwitz Council, which watches over the running of the site, is backing the museum.
Council president, Wladyslaw Bartoszewski said that he ruled out "the existence in Poland of an exhibition which misrepresents history based on the criteria of the Stalinist period".
Bartoszewski, a former prisoner at the camp, is a famous resistance leader who took part in the 1944 Warsaw Uprising against the Nazis and went on to serve as a foreign minister of Poland in the post-communist era.
Several countries have their own exhibition spaces in the former barracks of Auschwitz, reflecting the fate of their citizens at the hands of the Nazis.
Besides the Russian exhibition, the Belgian, Czech, Dutch, French, Hungarian and Slovak equivalents have been renovated in recent years.
Some 1.1 million people died at the death camp between 1940 and 1945 -- one million of them Jews from across Nazi-occupied Europe -- some by overwork, starvation and disease, but most in the gas chambers.
The Nazis began sending inhabitants of Soviet territories, including prisoners of war, to the camp after attacking their erstwhile ally in 1941.
Around 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war died at Auschwitz.
Also among the victims of the camp were 85,000 non-Jewish Poles, 20,000 gypsies and 12,000 non-Jewish citizens of other countries, including resistance fighters.