Polish leader calls for Ukraine unity at Holocaust event

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CAPTION CORRECTS THE NAME - Poland's President Andrzej Duda, centre left, and Auschwitz Survivor from U.S. Edward Mosberg, centre right, attend the March of the Living annual observance that was not held for two years due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, in Oswiecim, Poland, Thursday, April 28, 2022. Only eight survivors and some 2,500 young Jews and non-Jews are taking part in the annual march that is scaled down this year because of the war in neighboring Ukraine that is fighting Russia's invasion. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

WARSAW – Polish President Andrzej Duda denounced Russia's war against Ukraine on Thursday as he joined Holocaust survivors and people from around the world at an annual observance at the former site of Auschwitz.

“We are here to show that every nation has a sacred right to life, has a sacred right to cultivate its traditions, has a sacred right to develop,” he said.

Duda joined more than 2,000 young Israelis and others who joined the March of the Living, a commemoration taking place on Israel's national Holocaust memorial day that pays tribute to the 6 million Jewish victims of the Holocaust.

The route begins under the Auschwitz gate with the notorious slogan “Arbeit Macht Frei" (German for “work will set you free”) and leads to Birkenau, the largest site of mass extermination during Germany's occupation of Poland and other parts of Europe during World War II.

This year's march, the first after being suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic, also included delegations from Ukraine and the United Arab Emirates.

Duda, walking as Holocaust survivor Edward Mosberg held him by the arm, took part in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Death Wall in Auschwitz, where prisoners were shot to death.

Later, during a ceremony at Birkenau, Duda spoke out against war, anti-Semitism and other forms of hatred, and paid tribute to Jewish victims of the Holocaust as well as the other victims of Nazi Germany, including Poles, Roma and Russians.

“We come here to show that while during World War II, Nazi Germany managed to wipe my country off the map, wipe it out and murder Poles, including Polish Jews, we will never again allow something like this to happen," he said.

"We are also here to show that there is absolutely no consent to the attempt to take freedom and kill the Ukrainian nation with impunity, as is happening today in the occupied territories of Ukraine," he said.

More than 1.1 million people were murdered by the Nazis and their henchmen in Auschwitz. Most who were killed were Jews, but the victims also included Poles, Roma, Soviet prisoners of war and others. In all, about 6 million European Jews died during the Holocaust. When the Soviets liberated the camp, they found about 7,000 survivors.

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More AP coverage of the Holocaust and Russia's war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/the-holocaust and https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine