Auschwitz exhibition irritates Poles

Disagreement over Russian exhibit at Nazi death camp emerges as new irritant in relations between Russia and Poland.

A disagreement over a Russian exhibit at the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz has emerged as a new irritant in relations between Russia and Poland, where resentment of Cold War domination by Moscow remains strong. The camp museum has delayed the opening of the Russian-designed exhibition because it uses the term "Soviet citizens" to refer to people taken to Auschwitz from former Polish territory seized by the Soviet Union at the start of World War II, said museum head Piotr Cywinski. "Why is Russia still interpreting Stalinist times this way?" Cywinski said during an interview on Radio Tok FM. The museum said in a statement that residents of the occupied areas "by no means can be viewed as USSR citizens, as they did not renounce voluntarily their former citizenship and did not accept, as the result of an independent decision, Soviet citizenship." Russian newspapers have accused Poland this week of closing the exhibition for political reasons. The Russian daily "Kommersant," for one, called the matter a "new stumbling block in RussianPolish relations." Director Cywinski said the exhibit was closed at Russian request in 2004 for a planned update. He did say, however, that the reopening had been delayed by the disagreement over the "Soviet" citizenship the exhibition ascribes to residents of eastern Poland, the Baltic states and part of Romania - territories taken over the Soviet Union between 1939-41. "You cannot say a resident of Lviv - a Pole or a Jew - was a Soviet" citizen, Cywinski said. Lviv, formerly in eastern Poland, is now in Ukraine.