Importance of U.S.-Polish Ties Underscored by Vice President Bush During 1987 Visit to Krakow

The audio report is in Polish and English.

Link to audio.

In 1987, the U.S. Department of State upgraded the status of the Consulate in Krakow, designating it as a Consulate General. On September 29, 1987, visiting U.S. Vice President George H.W. Bush led a designation ceremony and spoke about the strength of U.S.-Polish ties, especially ties with Southern Poland. He also spoke about his visit earlier that day to the Nazi Concentration Camp at Auschwitz. Vice President Bush’s visit to Auschwitz, his visit to Krakow, designation of the Consulate General, and visit to the Polish-American Children’s Hospital in Krakow were major public diplomacy events while Poland still had a communist government.

This report was prepared by the Voice of America (VOA) Polish Service director and correspondent Ted Lipien who covered the 1987 visit to Poland by Vice President Bush.

“Vice President George H.W. Bush: “It is my great pleasure to be in this beautiful city today, to participate in this ceremony, which raises our mission here to the Consulate General level.

This mission symbolizes American presence, not just in Krakow, but in all southern Poland which is the ancestral home of many millions of Americans of Polish descent.

This city has long played a central role in the history of Poland and the Polish people. And when one sees the magnificent architecture with which the Polish kings embellished the city, it’s easy to recall that Krakow was once the capital of Poland. In her monuments and art, she remains a royal city.

But the contrast — these achievements and culture, civilization — stand in stark contrast to the barbarism evidenced by the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz which we visited this morning.

The brutal and tragic horrors of Auschwitz serve as grim reminder of man’s capacity for evil.

The denial of human rights, the denial of human dignity leads ultimately to this: the attempted extermination of an entire people.

As Eli Wiesel said to me last week just before I left on my trip, not all the victims were Jews, but all the Jews were victims.

At the end of this Nazi slaughter, six million Jews were dead. Thank God it didn’t succeed completely.

Thank God courageous Poles, risking the lives of themselves and their families, sheltered tens of thousands of Jews from their Nazi enemies. Many of them paid the ultimate price for their courage and humanity.

Hundreds of thousands of Christians met their ends in the awful death camps we paid solemn witness to this morning.

Today we saw the cell of Father Maximilian Kolbe who sacrificed his life for that of a fellow prisoner and was canonized by the Catholic Church.

Let’s all pledge today our eternal vigilance that crimes of this magnitude will happen never again, for it’s been written that in remembrance lies the secret of redemption.

On this trip to your country, Mr. President (Krakow’s mayor) we’ve sought to strengthen the long and cordial ties between the Polish and American people, ties that date to the very birth of the United States.

At the time of the American Revolution, Polish patriots crossed the dangerous ocean to offer their assistance to a people struggling to free themselves from foreign domination.”