Poland observed a somber and traumatic anniversary on Sunday. The country marked the 80th anniversary of when the Nazi’s began their invasion of the nation back in 1939. It was the start of Europe’s descent into the Second World War.
The occasion was marked by solemn ceremonies in different locations across Poland. Ceremonies were held in the Baltic port of Westerplatte near Gdansk, bombarded by German battleships in the war’s opening salvos. People also gathered in the city of Wielun, which was razed by Nazi aircraft in what is considered among the first of a long list of Nazi war crimes that took place in Poland.
Many heads of state attended an event in Warsaw to mark the anniversary. German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier attended the event and vowed during the ceremony that his nation would never forget the horrors of World War II. He also asked forgiveness “for Germany’s historical guilt.”
Donald Trump was supposed to attend the event, but canceled after learning Hurricane Dorian could hit Florida and affect his resort Mar-a-Lago. Trump sent Vice President Mike Pence in his place.
Trump soon faced criticism for canceling the trip because he spent his time on a golf course at one of his resorts on Saturday and Sunday as the hurricane loomed. On Sunday, Trump returned to the White House. Upon his return, Trump was asked if he had a message for Poland since he missed the commemorations.
Instead of condemning the horrors of the war or expressing any type of solidarity with other world leaders against a repeat of such autrocities Trump stated, “I just want to congratulate Poland. It’s a great country with great people.”
“We have many Polish people in our country—it could be 8 million,” Trump added. There are an estimated 10.5 million Americans of Polish descent. It is one of America’s largest immigrant populations, Polish populations are centered in the northeast of the country, with particularly large communities in Wisconsin and Michigan.
“We love our Polish friends,” Trump added. “And I will be there soon
Reportedly the right-wing Polish government was looking forward to Trump’s attendance at the Warsaw event, but they got Mike Pence and his family instead. Pence used his speech to lament war crimes that were committed by both Soviet troops and Nazi’s across Poland. During his speech, he suggested that the problems in the 20th century are rooted in the fact that “men had forgotten God.