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Apr. 03, 2007
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Poles Liberate Auschwitz from Soviet Exhibition
A new stumbling block has surfaced in Russian-Polish relations. The Russian exhibition at the museum at Auschwitz concentration camp in that country has been closed, and the museum's management will not reopen it until the occupation of Polish territory by the USSR is acknowledged. This move has been interpreted as a political action in Russia.
The National Exhibition of the USSR at Auschwitz was opened in 1961 and has been modernized several times since then, the last time being in January 2005, for the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the camp, when it was visited by Russian President Vladimir Putin. About 1.1 million people lost their lives at the camp. It had 7000 inhabitants when it was liberated by the forces from the 1st Ukrainian Front on January 27, 1945. The Seim of the People's Republic of Poland declared the three-camp complex a Monument to the Martyrdom of the Polish and Other Peoples in 1947. It was included on the UNESCO list of world heritage sites in 1979 and receives over half a million tourists a year.

Krystyna Oleksy, deputy director of the museum, told Kommersant that the Russian exhibition was closed because its modernization was not completed by the Russian side. However, Malgorzata Szniak, cultural attache at the Polish embassy in Moscow, citing the Polish Ministry of Culture, said that the administration of the museum objected to the new exhibition prepared by Russian specialists without the administration's agreement. It contains contradictions with other national exhibitions at Auschwitz, she explained, adding that the ministry was not taking sides in the dispute and the initiative came from the museum. I do not think it is political, she commented.

Piotr Setkiewicz, director of the museum's archive, told Kommersant that, besides minor questions of spelling and an alleged inaccuracy in numbers of victims, the director of the museum holds that all natives of occupied territories, that is, Western Ukraine and the part of Belarus that were transferred to the USSR under the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939, should be depicted as citizens of Poland. Museum spokesmen said that a letter explaining those objections had been sent to the Russian Ministry of Culture, but no reply to it had been received.

The reaction in Russia has been sharp. We sought a reasonable compromise when we worked on that exhibition and tried not to sin against history, chairman of the Federal Agency for Culture and Cinematography Mikhail Shvydkoi told Kommersant. I didn't receive any letter from Auschwitz. Mikhail Margelov, chairman of the Federation Council Committee on Foreign Affairs promised to raise the issue at the April PACE session.

All the Article in Russian as of Apr. 03, 2007

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