German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has asked Poland’s forgiveness for history’s bloodiest conflict at a ceremony in the Polish city of Wielun, where the first World War II bombs fell 80 years ago.
“I bow before the victims of the attack on Wielun. I bow before the Polish victims of German tyranny. And I ask your forgiveness,” Steinmeier said on September 1, speaking in both German and Polish.
Steinmeier spoke alongside his Polish counterpart, Andrzej Duda, who denounced Nazi Germany’s attack on Poland as “an act of barbarity.”
“We cannot forget about World War II even when its witnesses are gone…in order to make sure that what happened in Wielun and later in many other places in Poland and abroad is never repeated,” Duda said.
About 6 million Poles, including 3 million Polish Jews, died in the conflict that killed more than 50 million people overall.
Steinmeier and other heads of state and government are in Poland to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the start of World War II.
Speaking at the main event in Warsaw, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence paid tribute to the Polish people, saying their “character, faith, and determination…made all the difference.”
Pence also said the United States will continue to call on its allies to meet their common pledges when it comes to defense.
“America and Poland will continue to stand with all of our allies for our common defense. America and Poland will also continue to call on our allies to live up to the promises that we’ve made to one another,” he said.
U.S. President Donald Trump canceled his arrival to deal with Hurricane Dorian approaching Florida.
The invasion of Poland by Nazi German troops on September 1, 1939, marks the outbreak of World War II.