Poland marks start of World War II

A series of commemorative events took place on Sunday across Poland, as the country marked the 80th anniversary of the start of the Second World War.

U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe are some of the world leaders attending the events.

The commemorative events started at dawn on Sunday in Wielun, the town in central-western Poland. Early in the morning, a siren rang in Plac Legionow, where a hospital nearby became the first building to be bombed by Nazi Germany as it attacked Poland on Sept. 1, 1939, kicking off the Second World War.

“I bow my head to the victims of the attack in Wielun. I bow my head to the Polish victims of German tyranny. And I’m asking for forgiveness,” German President Steinmeier said during the event in Wielun.

In the afternoon, a separate ceremony took place in Warsaw’s Pilsudski Square, during which world leaders took turns to ring a bell engraved with the words “memory and warning”.

“We remember and we will always remember, with gratitude for all those who fought, who gave their lives for the free world,” said Polish President Andrzej Duda during the commemoration event in Warsaw.

American President Donald Trump was initially expected to attend the commemorations, but pulled out in the last minute, due to the need to stay in the U.S. and attend to preparations for hurricane Dorian.

German President Steinmeier appealed for unity and cooperation and said that “never again should one nation consider itself above others, nor should one people consider themselves above other people, or a race above other races.”