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Poland Seeks Russian Apology on the 70th Anniversary of WWII

1. September 2009 by Admin 0 Comments

Polish leaders marked the 70th anniversary of World War II in a somber ceremony at dawn Tuesday on the Westerplatte peninsula in Gdansk. The ceremony began at 4:45 a.m. — the exact hour on Sept. 1, 1939 that the German battleship Schleswig-Holstein shelled a tiny Polish military outpost on Westerplatte, where the Polish navy's arsenal was housed, in the war's opening salvo.

"Westerplatte is a symbol, a symbol of the heroic fight of the weaker against the stronger," Polish President Lech Kaczynski said. "It is proof of patriotism and an unbreakable spirit. Glory to the heroes of those days, glory to the heroes of Westerplatte, glory to all of the soldiers who fought in World War II against German Nazism, and against Bolshevik totalitarianism."

Over 20 leaders from former Ally and Axis nations were present. The presence of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin — the leaders of the countries that invaded Poland in the fall of 1939 — has sparked the most interest. Poland wants Russia to apologize for Stalin's decision to have the entire Polish officer corps shot. For decades, Moscow blamed the deaths on the Nazis, but after the fall of the Soviet Union it acknowledged they had been shot on Stalin's orders.

Russians are deeply proud of their country's victory over Hitler in 1945, but Poles, Balts and others say Stalin also bears direct responsibility for the outbreak of war, for carving up Poland with Hitler and also annexing the Baltic states.

Putin and Tusk agreed to set up joint teams of historians to study the murder of Polish officers in a forest at Katyn in the western Soviet Union in 1940 -- an event which for Poles symbolizes what they see as Stalin's treachery and cruelty.

At the ceremony, Putin condemned Moscow's 1939 treaty with Berlin, as well as the 1938 British and French pact with the Nazis at Munich. Some 27 million Soviet citizens perished in the war after Hitler reneged on his pact with Stalin and invaded the Soviet Union in 1941.