Czech PM rejects Poland's alleged complaint about Holocaust event
Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (Czech Social Democrats - ČSSD) has rejected claims published in the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza that Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopaczova has complained about an international commemoration of the end of the Holocaust to be held in the Czech Republic at the end of January. In a press release, Sobotka said he had received no such communication from his Polish colleague and that the events to be held in the Czech Republic will not compete with Poland's own commemorative gathering.
"The Czechs, who are not backers of harsh sanctions against Russia, are giving Putin a gift by organizing a commemoration that competes with those planned by the Auschwitz Museum in Poland. This is strange," the newspaper quoted an unnamed staffer from the Office of the Polish Prime Minister as saying. "Polish Prime Minster Ewa Kopaczova dislikes the Czech initiative so much she telephoned the head of Bohuslav Sobotka's cabinet in Prague to say so."
"The information published in the Polish newspaper is untrue, there has been no telephone call of complaint with the Polish Prime Minister," Sobotka responded in a press release. "The 'Let My People Live' event is being financed and organized by the European Jewish Congress (ECJ) in the Czech Republic under the auspices of the head of the European Parliament, MEP Martin Schulz, and with the support of the Czech Government, and in no way does it represent a competition with any of the commemorations in Poland. The same goes for the commemoration ceremonies that will take place at Prague Castle and Terezín."
Sobotka's claims were confirmed today by the Vice President of the ECJ, Raya Kalenová. "That's a lie, the Polish Prime Minister has not spoken about this with the Czech Prime Minister," she told the Czech News Agency.
Kalenová said both commemorations, which will take place on 27 January, International Holocaust Remembrance Day, complement each other. Moreover, the events in the Czech Republic and elsewhere are supposed to emphasize that the murder of the Jews was not just about Auschwitz, but all of Europe.
According to Sobotka, through these events the Czech Republic intends to mark the so-called Terezín Declaration on the legacy of the Holocaust, which almost 50 countries signed during the Czech Presidency of the European Union in 2009. The PM said a Czech delegation would "naturally participate" in the commemorative event at Auschwitz on 27 January, which is happening at the same time as the commemoration at Terezín.
According to the Czech News Agency, Poland first attempted to make sure the political part of these commemorations would take place in another country, but then changed its mind. State representatives were first supposed to gather in the Czech Republic; in the end, it is mainly parliamentary heads who will attend commemorations there.
More than 20 heads of parliaments have already confirmed their participation in the Czech events. Of the 14 heads of state invited to participate in the Czech events, only the Presidents of Bulgaria and Ukraine have confirmed their attendance.
U.S. President Barack Obama and the head of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, have asked to be excused from attending the Czech events, and it is also highly unlikely that Russian President Vladimir Putin will attend - the decision to invite him sparked passions, with the Federation of Jewish Communities of the Czech Republic distancing itself from including him. Today the Office of the Czech President issued a statement saying it perceives the events as largely involving parliamentary representatives.
Czech President Zeman met with the head of the ECJ to discuss the upcoming events today. The Czech commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz camp will last two days.
On 26 January the international "Let My People Live" forum will take place at Prague Castle, where participants will debate the growth in anti-Semitism and extremism worldwide, and a reception will be held for participants that evening in Prague's Municipal House. On 27 January, the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, heads of state and other important guests will speak at Prague Castle in the morning; a commemorative ceremony will take place at Terezín that afternoon.
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