“The controversy over Russia not being invited to commemorate Auschwitz is already underway, and the propaganda machine will begin to protest that it was the Russian soldiers who liberated the concentration camp. So let’s immediately recall that it was a Red Army detachment, made up of 90 percent Ukrainians and the remaining 10 percent Belarusians.” Studies organized conference “Dezinformacija and active measures: The pro-Kremlin strategic narratives in Italy about the war in Ukraine”. Precisely because the day after would have followed the commemoration day that commemorates the day the Red Army arrived in Auschwitz. It is a powerful element of the Soviet narrative of the “Great Patriotic War” revived by Putin and a key element in the propaganda of this “special operation” as a tool to “denazify Ukraine”.
To understand a certain vulnerability on this subject, suffice it to recall how Roberto Benigni was accused by Mario Monicelli and the then leader of the Italian Communists, Oliviero Diliberto, of “false history” for representing the father and Son of “Life is Beautiful”, liberated by the Americans instead of the Soviets.
A curious accusation of pro-American and anti-communist manipulation against a director and actor whose first film was entitled “Berlinguer I love you” and which PCI boss Enrico Berlinguer even “picked up” at a famous day of unity.
Aside from Oscar’s undoubted pandering, Benigni was happy to point out that “the film doesn’t talk about Auschwitz, and indeed there are mountains around the camp that aren’t in Auschwitz”. The Valnerina Mountains, because the concentration camp in the film is actually an old abandoned factory converted into a filming camp, located in Papigno near Terni. “This is the concentration camp, because every camp contains the horrors of Auschwitz, not one thing or the other,” Benigni said.
And one may also remember that the film was inspired by an uncle of Benigni’s wife who actually died in Mauthausen: a concentration camp where the liberators were instead of the Americans. Apparently, for this controversy, the joke that “Benigni lets the Americans go to Auschwitz” was also withdrawn.
But Auschwitz is in Poland, which is at the forefront of helping Ukraine. And the Auschwitz Museum has therefore decided to exclude Russia from celebrating the 78th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau by the Red Army on January 27, 1945.
Museum compound spokesman Piotr Sawicki said: “Due to the aggression against free and independent Ukraine, representatives of the Russian Federation were not invited to attend the commemoration. It was obvious that in the current context I could not sign a letter to the Russian ambassador in an inviting tone. I hope that will change in the future, but we still have a long way to go,” he said, speculating that it will be some time before Moscow “does a very deep introspection after this conflict, to go to the assemblies.” of the state to return to the civilized world.”
For the museum, the invasion of Ukraine is actually a “barbaric act.” Auschwitz-Birkenau has become a symbol of Nazi Germany’s genocide, but from the Bucha massacres to the laws on adopting Ukrainian children to Russify them, Putin’s Russia isn’t just currently mimicking some of Nazi troops’ worst behavior , it even does so in open violation of the Convention for the Prevention and Suppression of Genocide of December 9, 1948.
In fact, the non-invitation represents the culmination of a tension that began to escalate after the attacks on Crimea and Donbass, when Putin failed to come to the seventieth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz in 2015 because he was so rude as not to have been official invited. I mean, the invitation was actually sent to him. But more by the Russian embassy in Warsaw than by the Kremlin: which was perceived as a snub, and it was. Exactly, in response to that first attack on Ukraine. “We tried not to invite him, even though he was invited,” Konstanty Gebert, a columnist for Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland’s largest newspaper, told the BBC. However, Russia was present. Putin was replaced by the head of the presidential administration, Sergei Ivanov.
But it was precisely on this occasion that Polish Foreign Minister Grzegorz Schetyna recalled that it was actually Ukrainian soldiers who liberated Auschwitz. The Ukrainian government immediately confirmed this. Moscow protested: Not yet discredited by the statement, “Hitler was a Jew,” said Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, “exploiting the history of the concentration camp for nationalist purposes is very cynical,” and “everyone knows it was the Red Army that existed.” made up of soldiers from different ethnic groups».
Schetyna admitted that the Red Army unit that passed through the gates of hell at Auschwitz was obviously multi-ethnic, but insisted that its commander was of Ukrainian nationality and most of the soldiers were Ukrainian.
In fact, the gate to the Auschwitz death camp was opened by soldiers of the 100th Battalion of the Lviv Division, commanded by the future Hero of Ukraine, Anatoly Shapiro, a Poltava-born Ukrainian Jew. This historical moment was immortalized by another Ukrainian-born Jew in Kyiv: Volodymyr Yudin, the photographer of the newspaper “In honor of the homeland of the First Ukrainian Front of the Red Army”, to which the unit belonged.