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Jets Fly Over Former Death Camp in Poland

September 4, 2003

OSWIECIM, Poland (AP) _ Ignoring objections from the Auschwitz Museum, three Israeli F-15 jets piloted by descendants of Holocaust survivors circled the former Nazi death camp to pay tribute to the victims.

``It’s a protest against the inhumanity of the Nazis on the Polish territory,″ said Israel’s ambassador to Poland, Shevach Weiss. ``It’s a tribute to the ashes of those who were killed here.″

During the flyover, the blue Star of David painted on the planes was visible on the ground, where some 200 Israeli soldiers stood at attention at the former Birkenau death camp, adjacent to Auschwitz.

The Auschwitz Museum, which maintains the grounds of the former Nazi death camp, complained Wednesday that the show of military might was an inappropriate way to commemorate the victims.

Weiss expressed regret about the objections, but said those who opposed the tribute ``do not understand what happened in the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp.″

``Officers do not fight here, they cry here,″ he said.

Local Polish officials and Air Force authorities approved the Israeli flyover. ``The approved conditions of the flight did not violate safety rules and posed no threat to the museum,″ said Cpt. Wieslaw Grzegorz, spokesman for the Air Force command.

Both the Israeli military and Foreign Ministry defended the flyover, citing cooperation between Israel and Poland to remember the more than a million people who perished at Auschwitz-Birkenau, the vast majority of them Jews, from 1940 until its liberation on Jan. 27, 1945. In all, 6 million European Jews were murdered in the Holocaust.

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