WARSAW, Poland (AP) — The Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial museum has denounced a political spot by Poland’s ruling party that uses the theme of the Nazi German extermination camp to discourage participation in an upcoming anti-government march.
The state-run museum attacked “instrumentalization of the tragedy” of the 1.1 million people who were murdered at the site during World War II, arguing that it is an insult to their memory.
“It is a sad, painful and unacceptable manifestation of the moral and intellectual corruption of the public debate,” the state museum said.
The 14-second video published Wednesday by the Law and Justice party shows images of the former death camp, including the notorious “Arbeit Macht Frei” gate, and the words: “Do you really want to walk under this slogan?”
The reference is to a now-deleted tweet from journalist Tomasz Lis, who claimed that President Andrzej Duda and ruling party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski deserve to go to prison. He published the tweet amid a heated debate over a law passed by the party lawmakers and signed by Duda that is viewed by the U.S., the European Union and many Polish critics as anti-democratic.
“There will be a chamber for Duda and Kaczor,” the tweet said, using a nickname for Kaczynski.
He used the Polish word ”komora,” which can be simply a dark cell or chamber but which many in Poland associate with the gas chambers used by Germans in mass murder during the war.
Lis has since deleted the tweet and apologized.
“It is obvious that I was thinking of a cell, but I should have foreseen that people of ill will would adopt an absurd interpretation. I hope that Mr. Duda and Mr. Kaczynski will pay for their crimes against democracy, but on a human level I wish them health and long life,” Lis said. “I never wished death on anyone.”
President Duda weighed in with a tweet that implied criticism of the party that supports him. “The memory of the victims of German crimes in Auschwitz is sacred and inviolable; the tragedy of millions of victims cannot be used in political struggle; this is an unworthy act,” he said.
The purported aim of the new law is to create a commission to investigate Russian influences in Poland. But critics fear that it will be misused ahead of fall elections to target opponents, in particular opposition leader Donald Tusk. They say the commission could be used by the ruling party to eliminate its opponents from public life for a decade.
The law was approved this week by Duda, to widespread criticism in Poland and by the EU and the United States.
Critics in Poland have informally dubbed it “Lex Tusk,” and its passage has energized the political opposition. Tusk plans to lead a large anti-government march on Sunday in Warsaw, the capital.
The march is to be held on the 34th anniversary of the first partly free elections in Poland after decades of communism, on June 4, 1989.