The “Chicago Tribune”, one of the five largest newspapers in the US, which is celebrating its 175th anniversary this year, published a supplement on Polish history containing articles written by, among others, the Polish PM and Culture Minister.
“At the time of aggression against Ukraine, the memory of WWII is more important today than ever before and should be nurtured so that the same mistakes are not made,” Mateusz Morawiecki, Polish Prime Minister, wrote in his piece for the supplement.
As he pointed out, Europe is built on the memory of victory over the Third Reich, but “at the same time on a shameful denial of the truth about passivity in the first phase of the war.”
The head of the Polish government recalled that “the awareness that Germany had turned Poland into a hell on earth reached the West extremely slowly”, just as the knowledge of the Holocaust was not initially accepted by Western leaders.
A ‘duty for the future’
As Mr Morawiecki wrote, in the context of the ongoing Russian aggression against Ukraine, the stakes of responsibility for the memory of WWII are “greater than at any time in post-war history”.
“The ability to face the truth about WWII is our duty not only to the past, but also our duty to the future. The fact that post-war Germany was so quickly reintegrated back into the international community without the need for an in-depth accounting of war criminals has opened the floodgates to the relativisation of evil,” he explained.
Although the regime of the Third Reich was an “absolute evil”, Mr Morawiecki said, there are more and more voices about the “complicity of the victims”. He cited the example of Russian strongman Vladimir Putin and his propaganda, which “for years has been trying to make the world believe that Poland was responsible for the outbreak of WWII.”
“If we were to rewrite the genesis of WWII to contemporary terms, the climax would be Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The fact that it happened means that many countries have forgotten the lessons of the 20th century,” Mr Morawiecki stressed.
In his piece, Piotr Gliński, Polish Culture Minister, wrote that “the extent of the losses suffered by Poland during WWII is to this day impossible to determine precisely,” adding that according to post-war estimates, more than 516,000 artworks were looted or destroyed.
While some of them were destroyed as a result of warfare, he added, the most valuable works were subject to systematic plunder by the Third Reich authorities, as well as looting by German soldiers.
According to Mr Gliński, as many as 5 million works of art from all areas occupied by the Nazis, including Poland, found their way to Germany in this way during the war.
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