Presidents of Poland and Israel to participate together in March of the Living

A group of students from Ottawa enters Birkenau on Yom HaShoah during the 2015 March of the Living.

A group of students from Ottawa enters Birkenau on Yom HaShoah during the 2015 March of the Living.

(JTA) – The presidents of Israel and Poland will take part in the March of the Living in the former Auschwitz death camp.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and Polish President Andrzej Duda agreed to jointly participate in the April 12 ceremony during a telephone conversation last month, the head of the Cabinet of the Polish president, Krzysztof Szczerski, announced Monday.

After the ceremonies in Auschwitz, talks between the two presidents will take place in Oświęcim.

Szczerski noted that the plans for the April ceremony and meeting were topics of his meeting on Monday with the Israeli ambassador to Poland, Anna Azari.

The March of the Living will traverse a nearly two-mile trail from the main gate of the former Auschwitz camp to the former Birkenau camp, where a ceremony commemorating the victims of the Holocaust will take place next to the ruins of the largest crematoria. This year the event falls on the 30th anniversary of the first march.

Duda said Monday in an interview for Polish television that he was “appalled” by the behaviour of the Israeli ambassador, who referred to recent changes in Polish law during the weekend ceremony for the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

“There were Poles who were prisoners of this camp, and in their presence these words were said. For me, this whole situation was surprising, I do not understand this situation,” he said.

He added that for the Polish side the law is clear and unambiguous, and the reaction of Israel may be the result of “distortions or misinformation.”

“We absolutely can’t back down. We have the right to defend the historical truth,” he also said.

On Sunday, Duda said in a statement that he would carefully review the legislation.

“Everyone whose personal memory or historical research speaks the truth about the crimes and shameful behavior that occurred in the past with the participation of Poles has full right to this truth,” he said.

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