European Commission backs Poland in war of words with Russia over the causes of WWII

Matthew Day
The former German Nazi death camp Auschwitz II - Birkenau in Oswiecim, Poland  - AFP

The European Commission accused Vladimir Putin of "distorting of historical facts" as it backed Poland in a heated war of words with Russia over the causes of the Second World War.

Warsaw was left incensed at the end of December when Vladimir Putin appeared to suggest that Poland bore some responsibility for the start of the Second World War

Most Poles regarded the comments as a blatant attempt by the Russian leader to absolve his country of any guilt surrounding the start of the war despite the Soviet Union colluding with Hitler to wipe Poland from the map of Europe in 1939.

“The European Commission fully rejects any false claims and attempts to distort the history of the Second World War, or paint the victims, like Poland, as perpetrators,” said Ms Jourova in an address to the European Parliament ahead of a debate on the distortion of European history.

“The commission will not tolerate these attacks on Poland and stands in full solidarity with Poland and the Polish people.”

She added that “the distortion of historical fact is a threat to our democratic societies and must be challenged whenever possible.”

Her words of support will be welcomed in Poland at a time when many Poles feel that Russia is increasing its attempts to portray their country as an instigator of the war while whitewashing Stalin’s alliance with Hitler, and the deaths of thousands upon thousands of Poles at the hands of the Soviet Union in the early years of the war.

Earlier this month Mateusz Morawiecki, the Polish prime minister, launched a furious attack on Mr Putin, accusing him of “lying repeatedly” about Poland and using words that “resembled propaganda from the times of Stalinist totalitarianism”.

The European Commission’s stance is a rare example of support for Poland from Brussels. Relations between the two have been fraught since Law and Justice, Poland’s governing party, came into office over four years ago.  

The two have clashed repeatedly over issues such as rule of law, democratic values and the environment.