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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Progress Cited on Holocaust Dispute

WARSAW -- A dispute over the nationality of 1 million Jews who died in the Holocaust took a tentative step forward Monday after Russia indicated it might be willing to review the disputed figures.

"I had a meeting with the Russian ambassador, and I think it was positive and gave me hope to re-establish dialogue on this issue," said the head of the Auschwitz museum, Piotr Cywinski.

Cywinski said the Russian ambassador to Poland, Vladimir Grinin, appeared willing to seek a review of the figures on a Russian exhibition in the former death camp.

"Ambassador Grinin sees the need for further work on the Russian exhibition and has sent some proposals back to Moscow," Cywinski said. "We are now waiting for their answer."

Russian historians say almost half of the 6 million Jews who perished during World War II at the hands of the Nazis were citizens of the Soviet Union.

But the Auschwitz museum disputes this, saying almost 1 million of these Jews were citizens of Poland, Romania and the Baltics, who were only in the Soviet Union as a result of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.

Last week, Russian officials accused Poland of blocking the reopening of the exhibition, which commemorates Russian victims of the Holocaust, for political reasons. It has been closed for two years for renovation.

Cywinski and the International Auschwitz Council, a body of historians, camp survivors and Israeli officials which supervises the museum, argued they could not reopen the exhibition because it distorted the ethnic origin of some of the war's victims by calling them Russians.

They say these Jews are commemorated elsewhere in the museum, which covers two former German-run concentration camps at Auschwitz and Birkenau, near the southwestern Polish city of Oswiecim.

Professor Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, an Auschwitz survivor and former Polish foreign minister who sits on the museum's international council, said the Russian exhibition was reverting to Soviet propaganda from before the collapse of communism in East Europe.

"There is no place [in the exhibition] for historic lies akin to those from the Stalinist era," he was quoted by the Gazeta Wyborcza daily as saying.