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World leaders gathered at Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem. Polish President absent in protest

TVN24 | TVN24 News in English

TVN24 News in English, Reuters, PAP

World leaders voiced alarm at resurgent anti-Semitism on Thursday as they gathered at Israel's national Holocaust Memorial to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp Auschwitz. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence also castigated Iran in their speeches to the World Holocaust Forum, accusing it of rabid anti-Semitism and of seeking Israel's destruction. Thursday's commemoration was not attended by President Andrzej Duda of Poland, who turned down his invitation because Poland he was not allowed to speak at the conference.

"The Jewish people have learned the lessons of the Holocaust, to take, always to take seriously the threats of those who seek our destruction, to confront threats when they are small, and above all, even though we deeply deeply appreciate the great support of our friends, to always have the power to defend ourselves by ourselves" - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in his speech.

Israel has hailed the World Holocaust Forum at the Yad Vashem memorial center, marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp during World War Two, as the biggest international gathering in its history.

The conference is being held against the backdrop of a rise in anti-Semitic attacks in the United States and Europe.

Netanyahu also lashed out at his country's arch-foe Iran, whose nuclear ambitions he says are aimed at building atomic weapons with the aim of destroying Israel. Tehran denies it is seeking nuclear arms.

"I am concerned that we have yet to see a unified and resolute stance against the most anti-Semitic regime on the planet. A regime that openly seeks to develop nuclear weapons and annihilate the one and only Jewish state. Israel salutes President Trump and Vice President Pence for confronting the tyrants of Tehran" - Israeli PM said.

In his speech addressing the world leaders, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, called on the international community to stand united against "anti-semitism and racism".

"Today, we are marking, ladies and gentlemen, the ability the international community had to unite, to work towards a common goal, and the duty and obligation of the international community today to continue to work together on the basis of shared values as we face antisemitism and racism and in the face of radical forces that spread chaos and destruction, hate and fear. We must stand together, all of us together, as a fortified wall out of respect for mankind and in honor of humanity" - President Rivlin said.

"Vile tide of anti-Semitism"

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said the world must stand strong against "a vile tide of anti-Semitism" sweeping the world, and singled out Iran as a main perpetrator.

"We must be prepared to confront and expose the vile tide of anti-Semitism that is fuelling hate and violence all across the world and we must stand together," Pence told an audience of world leaders during a Holocaust memorial forum in Jerusalem.

"In that same spirit, we must also stand strong against the leading state purveyor of anti-Semitism, against the one government in the world that denies the Holocaust as a matter of state policy and threatens to wipe Israel off the map. The world must stand strong against the Islamic Republic of Iran," he said.

Russia ready for "serious conversation"

Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed holding a summit between the leaders of Russia, China, the United States, France and Britain in 2020 to discuss the conflict in Libya and other global problems.

Putin, who was speaking during a trip to Israel, said Moscow was ready for a "serious conversation" with the permanent members of the UN Security Council, that there was much to discuss and that the summit could happen anywhere in the world.

"We had a discussion with several colleagues and as far as I understand in general we saw a positive reaction to holding a meeting of the heads of the permanent members of the UN Security Council, Russia, China, the U.S., France, and Great Britain, in any country, at any point of the world that is convenient for our colleagues. Russia is ready for this kind of serious conversation. We intend to send the relevant invitations to the leaders of the Big Five without delay" -

Putin added that holding such a summit would be an important symbolic step ahead of the 75th anniversary of the end of World War Two.

"There are many tasks before us. We discussed one of them very recently in Berlin at the initiative of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, that is Libya, and we need to return to this problem at the Security Council and adopt the corresponding resolution (U.N. Libya resolution). But there are lots of other problems, so such a summit in 2020 is important, symbolic, we mark the 75th anniversary of end of World War Two and of the founding of the United Nations."

"Never again! nie wieder!"

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier told Israel's national Holocaust Memorial at the Yad Vashem memorial center that he bowed his head in "deepest sorrow (for) the worst crime in the history of humanity" committed by his countrymen.

"The industrial mass murder of six million Jews, the worst crime in the history of humanity, it was committed by my countrymen. The terrible war, which cost far more than 50 million lives, it originated from my country" - said German president.

He emphasised that "Germany responsibility does not expire. We want to live up to our responsibility. By this, dear friends, you should measure us". "I wish I could say that we Germans have learnt from history once and for all. But I cannot say that when hatred is spreading," he added.

Steinmeier spoke in English rather than in German, a choice made, his office said, to avoid causing any distress to Holocaust survivors in the audience.

"Our age is a different age, the words are not the same. The perpetrators are not the same. But it is the same evil and there remains only one answer: Never again! nie wieder!" - Frank-Walter Steinmeier stressed.

"Never become divided"

Warning of the "dark shadow of anti-Semitism", French President Emmanuel Macron met French survivors of the Holocaust at a memorial near Jerusalem to some 76,000 Jews arrested in wartime France and transported to death camps such as Auschwitz, where most died.

"Europe has to stand united, never forget, never become divided. This is also one of of our teachings" - Macron said.

French president Emmanuel Macron called on world leaders to inspire the youth to say "never again" in the face of anti-Semitism, at the World Holocaust Forum in Jerusalem.

"May we, today, all together, inspire our youth in order for it to find courage and to stand upright, proud of our values, and to cede nothing, and in its turn say, knowing all it has seen and understood: 'Never again, never again.'"

The French president also warned that antisemitism is not only a problem for Jews but "everyone's problem" and appealed on European countries to stay united in the face of hatred.

"Today, in our democracies, anti-Semitism is reappearing, violent, brutal. It is here… and with it, hatred and intolerance, racism. Anti-Semitism, I say it clearly, is not only the Jews' problem, it is everyone's problem before anything" - said the French president.

Homage to Princess Alice

Britain's Prince Charles paid homage to his grandmother, Princess Alice, for sheltering Jews in Nazi-occupied Greece, saying the royal family took great pride in Israel's recognition of her heroism in the Holocaust.

Charles, first in line to the British throne, addressed a Holocaust memorial ceremony attended by some 40 world leaders in Jerusalem, and voiced a commitment to combat anti-Semitism at a meeting with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin.

"I have long drawn inspiration from the selfless actions of my dear grandmother, Princess Alice of Greece, who in 1943 in Nazi occupied Athens, saved a Jewish family by taking them into her home and hiding them," the prince said at the forum in the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial centre.

"My grandmother, who is buried on the Mount of Olives, has a tree planted in her name here at Yad Vashem and is counted as one of the Righteous Among the Nations ... a fact which gives me and my family immense pride".

Princess Alice of Battenberg and Greece was Queen Elizabeth's mother-in-law. A devout Christian, she died in London in 1969 and had asked to be buried in Jerusalem, next to her aunt, who like Alice had become a nun and founded a convent.

In 1993, the princess received the highest honour Yad Vashem bestows on non-Jews for hiding three members of the Cohen family in her palace in Athens during World War Two.

"The truth that must not die"

One notable absentee from Thursday's commemoration was President Andrzej Duda of Poland, who turned down his invitation because Poland he was not allowed to speak at the conference, unlike the wartime victors the United States, Russia, Britain and France, and also Germany.

Polish leaders have also been angered by comments made by Putin last month suggesting Poland shared responsibility for the war. Poland, which was invaded first by Nazi Germany and then by Soviet forces in September, 1939, sees itself as a major victim of the war, in which it lost a fifth of its population.

In a meeting with Poland's Jewish community on January 8th, the Polish president said that he would not attend the event if he was not able to present the Polish point of view, referring to the country's six million citizens who perished in the Second World War, 3 million of whom were Jews.

Polish leaders have been angered by comments made by Russian president Vladimir Putin last month suggesting Poland shared responsibility for the war.


Poland to hold its own event

In an interview with state owned Israeli broadcaster KAN on Tuesday (January 21st), Duda said that Putin was spreading historical lies and erasing the then Soviet Union's responsibility for the Second World War.

The Polish president also said that part of the reason for his decision to skip the Israeli ceremony was that he would prefer if the event took place on the grounds of Auschwitz, where it has always been commemorated.

Poland will host its own ceremony at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum on January 27, as it does every year.

More than one million people, most of them Jews, were killed at the death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.

Poland is being represented at the event by the country's ambassador to Israel, Marek Magierowski.

Poland will host its own ceremony at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum on January 27, as it does every yearTVN24

Źródło: TVN24 News in English, Reuters, PAP