German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier made an emotional speech Sunday during an event marking the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of World War Two.
“Eighty years ago, at this very moment, all hell rained down on Wielun — fuelled by German racist barbarity and the desire to annihilate,” Steinmeier told the audience in the Polish city of Wielun, where the first Nazi air raids were conducted.
“I bow my head before the Polish victims of Germany’s tyranny. And I ask forgiveness.”
Polish President Andrzej Duda, for his part, denounced Nazi Germany’s attack on Poland, calling it “an act of barbarity.”
“Wielun was to show what kind of war it would be, that it would be a total war, a war without rules, a destructive war,” he said.
Dignitaries, along with the elderly survivors of the German attack, observed a minute of silence in memory of those who had lost their lives.
Remembrance services have been taking place all over Poland to mark the beginning of hostilities in 1939. The country endured a brutal war that killed nearly 6 million Poles.
As part of the events, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki paid his respects at a service on the Baltic coast, where the first clash between Polish and German military occurred.
Later on Sunday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence, and British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, along with leaders from several other European countries, will attend a separate commemoration event in Warsaw.
U.S. President Donald Trump had been expected to deliver a speech at the event, but cancelled citing the need to deal with a hurricane in the United States.