President Duda on the 71st anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz
Published on January 28, 2016
President Andrzej Duda delivered the following speech on the occasion of the 71st anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz:
With the greatest respect and deep gratitude for your presence, I wanted to welcome the former prisoners of concentration camps, mainly the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp. I would like to greet the survivors, those who have gone through these horrible and unimaginable places of execution; today, they are with us.
Despite the passage of 71 years, I imagine how difficult it is for you to come here – not only because of the age but also because of what this place means to you and what kind of images should appear before your eyes, when you enter this soil, where remnants and ashes are mingled… Almost 1.5 million victims, according to the statistics.
These are unimaginable losses suffered by the nations, primarily Jewish but also Polish, Roma, and the Russian nations. Thank you that you are here as eyewitnesses of that history. Auschwitz is not just a museum. Auschwitz is not just a mass grave, the ashes of the victims are everywhere – the whole place is a mass grave. (…) Auschwitz also represents the present-day for the whole world, a powerful symbol and a warning of what can happen if those in power detour and manipulate the people. What could happen if hatred dominates public and social life? What might happen if international law is violated, and the international community does not respond in time? What could happen if some states behave aggressively towards others, wage war and hatred?
Auschwitz will be the enormous warning forever. Thank you for being here as witnesses of the German Nazi concentration camp. On the lands that were brutally taken away from Poland in 1939 the Germans built a machine of destruction – the prisoners were Poles, Russian POWs, Gypsies, but since 1942 this place became a gruesome place of extermination of the Jewish people.
Ruthlessly murdered – only a fraction was spared for deadly work. The rest was killed instantly – fathers and mothers watched their children led to the gas chambers. This truth was so terrible that no one wanted to believe it; but there were witnesses who carried this information to the West. The Polish underground army sent here, to Auschwitz, Capt. Pilecki – the great hero – who intentionally gave himself up in a round up to be sent to Auschwitz with the intent to organize underground cells here and bring back to the world the truth about Auschwitz. And he did it.
Another great and wonderful Pole and the true hero, Jan Karski, created reports on the basis of the information obtained from Capt. Pilecki and delivered them to the Allied Coalition, the USA. The picture that emerged from this report was so gruesome that it was hard to believe his words – even though he pleaded. The world found out about the truth only when these camps were liberated and the truth came into plain view before the whole world.
We have to do everything – it’s not only the obligation of politicians, but of all the people – to make sure that the terrible events that took place here will never again happen anywhere in the world. It is not just a matter of upholding international law, but also of educating young people in all countries – Poland, Israel, Europe, and the world.
I am very proud and happy that here today with me is Zofia Pilecka, the daughter of Capt. Pilecki, that here with me is Marysia Jopek, a high school student who won a competition entitled “What Auschwitz means for me?” Through education we will make sure that Auschwitz will remain present in the minds of young people – so that neither in our time nor in the time of future generations, such a tragedy will never take place again.
In all this, the truth is very important. Only then the history becomes a positive stimulator of coexistence between the nations, only when it is based on truth. The proclamation of the truth is the obligation of everybody: the Poles, as (…) those who also were held in those camps and who know the truth about the Holocaust. It is a duty of Israel that suffered so terribly as a nation, in a way that is indescribable. This truth must be told to the world – that those were the German Nazi camps, and who were their victims and who perpetrated these murders. It’s a big task, which is and will be implemented.
(…) Any time I am here, I feel torn apart. The size of the tragedy in this place is so unimaginable. And that’s why today I pay tribute to all the victims. I pay tribute to all those who survived. Please accept the assurances of the highest respect and once again thank you for being here.
For me, as a Pole – today the President of Poland – but also to Israel, Auschwitz is a powerful lesson that everything has to be done to protect the safety and lives of our citizens. For people entrusted with public office this is the highest duty. Thank you.
Written by Maf