Polish president pulls out of Auschwitz event in Israel

Warsaw (AFP) –


Poland's president on Tuesday pulled out of an event in Jerusalem marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp in protest at not being allowed to make a speech there.

World leaders are due to attend the January 23 ceremony at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial marking the anniversary, which falls four days later.

"I will be clear: we have decided that I as the Polish president will not participate in the event," Andrzej Duda said.

He had previously said he would attend if he was allowed to make a formal address. Other heads of state, including Russia's Vladimir Putin, are due to speak.

Duda said denying him the opportunity to publicly honour Polish citizens who perished in the Holocaust was tantamount to a "distortion of the historical truth".

Nearly six million Polish citizens, half of whom were Jewish, died in World War II that was triggered by Nazi Germany's 1939 invasion of Poland.

The ceremonies in Jerusalem come days ahead of a January 27 event organised by Poland at the site of the former Nazi death camp on the actual 75th anniversary of its liberation.

While the Soviet Red Army liberated the camp, Poland has not invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to the event, which Duda is due to attend.

Polish leaders have expressed outrage over recent accusations by Putin that Poland colluded with Nazi Germany and shares responsibility for triggering World War II.

Part of Nazi German dictator Adolf Hitler's genocide plan against European Jews, dubbed the "Final Solution", Auschwitz-Birkenau operated in the then-occupied southern Polish town of Oswiecim between June 1940 and January 1945.

Of the more than 1.3 million people imprisoned there, some 1.1 million -- mainly European Jews -- perished, either asphyxiated in the gas chambers or due to starvation, exhaustion and disease.

In all, the Nazis killed six million of pre-war Europe's 11 million Jews.