The International March of the Living has announced on Wednesday that Polish President Andrzej Duda will lead this year’s historic March of the Living at the site of the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau on Thursday.
In 2018, Duda signed into law the Amendment to the Act on the Institute of National Remembrance, making it illegal to accuse “the Polish nation” of complicity in the Holocaust and other Nazi German atrocities, a measure that has rattled Poland’s relations with Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who accused the Polish government of “Holocaust denial.”
The law makes it illegal to use the term “Polish death camps” in describing Auschwitz and other death camps located in Nazi-occupied Poland.
Israel retaliated in January 2020, when Duda was invited to a major Holocaust memorial event that was attended by A-list guests from around the globe but the organizers would not allow him to speak there, even though Russian President Vladimir Putin was allowed to speak and present his country’s version of WW2 unobstructed.
Duda was the presidential candidate for the right-wing populist and national-conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party in the 2015 presidential election. The PiS chairman, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, was embroiled in July 2021 in a public confrontation with Israeli foreign minister Yair Lapid over a proposed Polish law that would limit the ability of Jewish claimants to seek restitution for property they lost during and after WW2.
The annual Holocaust memorial event, which is returning in person for the first time following a two years absence due to the pandemic, will see thousands of participants from around the world march the 3.2 km from Auschwitz to Birkenau in memory of the six million Jewish victims of the Nazis, with a message of unity in the face of antisemitism, hatred, racism, and bigotry of all forms.
President Duda will accompany Holocaust survivors, many of whom may be marching for the last time; 3,000 participants from over 25 countries; as well as a delegation of war refugees from Ukraine.
International March of the Living President Phyllis Greenberg Heideman, and Chairman, Dr. Shmuel Rosenman, said: “We are honored by President Duda’s participation in this historic March. With the shadow of war once again hanging over Europe, and Poland hosting millions of refugees from the ongoing war, President Duda’s participation pays tribute to the memory of the victims of the Holocaust and will serve as a clear statement against the dangers of antisemitism, hatred, racism, and intolerance.”