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6th Apr 2020

Poland rings EU alarm after Russian WW2 slurs

  • Poland proud of its resistance to Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia (Photo: Piotr Pawłowski)

Poland has cried out for EU solidarity after Russian president Vladimir Putin depicted Poles as "antisemitic pigs" who "colluded" with Hitler.

"It is so important that we continue to speak out loud, telling the truth about World War II, its perpetrators and victims - and object to any attempts at distorting history," Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Sunday (29 December).

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  • Former EU Council president Donald Tusk (l) with Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki (Photo: Council of the European Union)

"Poland must stand up for the truth. Not for its own interest, but for the sake of what Europe means," he added.

"Attempts are [being] made to rehabilitate Stalin for the political goals of today's president of Russia. These attempts must be met with strong opposition from every person who has at least basic knowledge about the history of the 20th century," Morawiecki also said.

He spoke after Putin, one week ago, called Poland's ambassador to Germany in 1938, Józef Lipski, "a bastard, an antisemitic pig".

Putin claimed that Lipski had offered to build a monument to Hitler in Warsaw if the Nazis deported Jews to Africa.

"Essentially they [the Poles] colluded with Hitler. This is clear from documents, archival documents," Putin said in a speech at the Russian defence ministry on 24 December, citing classified Soviet files as evidence.

Warsaw quickly summoned Russia's ambassador to Poland and accused the Kremlin of "Stalinist ... propaganda".

But Putin's ambassador told Warsaw to stop its "groundless and offensive statements about my country and my president".

The Polish "pig" slur came after a European Parliament resolution which said Hitler and Stalin had started World War II by invading Poland in 1939.

Putin's provocation also came after EU leaders recently rolled over economic sanctions on Russia and the US imposed new ones on a Russia-Germany gas pipeline, called Nord Stream 2, the Polish prime minister noted on Sunday.

"I consider president Putin's words as an attempt to cover up these problems. The Russian leader is well aware that his accusations have nothing to do with reality," Morawiecki said.

It was Hitler and Stalin who, in fact, colluded "on liquidating (that is murdering) people, Polish citizens" and on feeding the Nazi war machine with Soviet natural resources so that "thanks to Stalin, Hitler could conquer new countries with impunity, lock Jews from all over the continent in ghettos, and prepare the Holocaust", Morawiecki added.

But "the greatest victims of communism were Russian citizens. Historians estimate that between 20m and 30m people were killed in the USSR alone," the Polish leader also said.

Provocative revisionism was nothing new in Russia's anti-Western propaganda campaign, Polish academics pointed out.

Earlier this month, Putin also blamed Poland for World War II on grounds of pre-war treaties.

And the attempts to blacken Poland's name were aimed at dividing the West, Mariusz Wołos, from the Pedagogical University in Kraków, told Polish news website Onet.pl.

"Putin is deliberately trying to break up the European Union ... trying to quarrel Poland with the US and the international Jewish community," he said.

The Kremlin "myths" of opposition to alleged Western fascism were also being "used to legitimise the current system of rule in Russia and its foreign policy," Henryk Głębocki from the Jagiellonian University in Kraków added.

Verbal escalation

Putin's anti-Polish slur came amid existing disputes between core EU countries and Poland's right-wing rulers, the Law and Justice party, on EU values and on migrants.

But the Russian propaganda attack also came amid its military aggression in Ukraine and amid Russian revanchism in wider Europe, which have prompted security concerns.

And for Poland's former prime minister and EU Council president, Donald Tusk, the "pig" speech marked an escalation which ought to transcend Polish political party or EU divisions.

"In view of the cocky lies of Russian president Vladimir Putin and Russian propaganda, a joint position of the Polish authorities and the opposition is needed. There is no place and time for internal disputes," Tusk said on Twitter.

"In recent days, we are witnessing a Russian propaganda offensive that defames Poland and tries to change its role in history ... I call on [Polish] president Andrzej Duda to take urgent action," Małgorzata Kidawa-Błońska, a senior MP from the opposition Civic Platform party in Poland, also said.

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