German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Sunday asked Poland's forgiveness for history's bloodiest conflict during a ceremony in the Polish city of Wielun, where the first World War II bombs fell 80 years ago.
"I bow my head before the victims of the attack on Wielun. I bow my head before the Polish victims of Germany's tyranny. And I ask forgiveness," Steinmeier said in both German and Polish.
Poland suffered some of the worst horrors of World War II: nearly six million Poles died in the conflict that killed more than 50 million people overall.
That figure includes the six million Jews who died in the Holocaust, half of whom were Polish.
"It is the Germans who committed a crime against humanity in Poland," Steinmeier added. "We will never forget. We want to remember and we will remember."
Polish President Andrzej Duda for his part denounced Nazi Germany's attack on Poland, calling it "an act of barbarity" and "a war crime."
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence paid tribute to the courage of the Polish people.
"None fought with more valor, determination, and righteous fury than the Poles," Pence told the gathering of leaders that included German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe.
Pence attended the ceremony instead of U.S. President Donald Trump who canceled his trip due to the arrival of Hurricane Dorian.
Pence said: "America and Poland will continue to call on our allies to live up to the promises we have made to one another."
After meeting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Warsaw, Pence said Washington will continue to support Ukraine.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans attended a separate dawn remembrance Sunday in Westerplatte, where a Nazi German battleship opened fire on a Polish fort on September 1, 1939.
Though it has been 80 years since the war started, there are still unresolved matters according to Poland, which says Germany owes it war reparations.
Berlin says all financial claims linked to World War Two have been settled with Steinmeier continuing with his theme of responsibility. "Because Germany, despite its history, was allowed to grow to new strength in Europe, we Germans must do more for Europe," he said.
Source(s): AFP ,Reuters