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Jun 12, 2024

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World Marks WW2
Anniversary In Poland

By Robert Strybel
Warsaw Correspondent

WARSAW–At the start of September, the international media focused on Poland where some 250 world leaders had gathered to mark the 80th anniversary of mankind’s most horrific conflict. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki took part in pre-dawn ceremonies in the Baltic port of Gdańsk, where on September 1st, 1939 the German battleship Schleswig-Holstein attacked a Polish military depot at Westerplatte, firing the first shots of World War II.

As regards Poland’s sufferings at the hands of the German invaders, Morawiecki said: “We need to talk about those losses, we must remember, demand the truth and demand compensation.” Not only was one-fifth of the nation annihilated, but Warsaw estimates that Poland lost the equivalent of $1.1 trillion in terms of destroyed infrastructure, stolen art works and potential revenues lost because of the war.

At  roughly the same, time, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier apologized for Germany’s war crimes as he spoke in the central town of Wieluń. There, Hitler’s Luftwaffe first tested its Blitzkrieg bombardment, slaughtering a thousand civilians as they slept. In halting Polish, Steinmeier made a valiant attempt to say: “Chylę czoła przed ofiarami ataku na Wieluń. Chylę czoła przed polskimi ofiarami niemieckiej tyranii i proszę o przebaczenie”. (I bow before the victims of the attack on Wieluń, I bow before the Polish victims of German tyranny and ask forgiveness.”

In the afternoon, the main ceremonies took place at Warsaw’s Piłsudski Square according to the protocol for high-level commemorations: wreath-laying at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier,, 21-gun salute and a military march-past. US Vice-.Preisdent Mike Pence delivered a keynote speech as a stand-in for the president who had postponed his planned visit to monitor Hurricane Dorian as it approached Florida. His address fully reflected the pro-Polish rhetoric of Donald Trump who in his memorable 2017 Warsaw speech held >Poland up as a model for other nations to emulate.

“Today, in the heart of Warsaw and before the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, we have gathered to bear witness to the courage of a great people, to the spirit of a great nation, and to the profound and lasting strength of a great civilization.” He called Poland “a homeland of heroes” which “had endured a campaign to demolish your freedom, laws, history, identity and faith. Yet you never lost that spirit. Your oppressors tried to break you. but Poland could not be broken.”

In a hard-hitting address, Polish President Andrzej Duda not only recounted the horrors visited on Poland by both Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia but openly criticized the cowardice and “business as usual” approach of Poland’s Western Allies. “There may have never been a Second World War if the Western powers had opposed Hitler’s Anschluß (annexation) of Austria and  the mistreatment of Jews in Germany and had defended Czechoslovakia,” Duda said.

In a clear reference to Putin’s Russia, he added: “Today, In Europe imperialistic tendencies have re-emerged to change borders and subjugate citizens. There must be sanctions There must be a response to every aggression. Turning a blind eye is no prescription for peace. It simply encourages further attacks.”

Near the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, guests of honor took turns ringing a Peace Bell specially cast for the occasion. When its last peal ended, church-bells resounded all over Warsaw.. In the evening. guests attended a state banquet at Warsaw’s resplendent Royal Castle which ahd been destroyed by the Germans and was painstakingly restored in the 1970s. At the nearby Great Theater, they attended a performance of Krzysztof Pendercki’s “Polish Requiem”, an oratorio devoted to the victims of Stalin’s 1940 Katyń Massacre.

Meanwhile, from the White House came word that President Trump would be visiting Poland in the near future for the US-Polish talks that were to have taken place on September 2nd. Several two-way agreements have been completed and only need to be signed by both countries’ presidents.