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Museum of the History of Polish Jews
Museum of the History of Polish Jews
|Location Józefa Lewartowskiego 12, Warsaw, Poland|
|Open to visitors yes|
|Need appointment no|
|Handicap accessibility yes|
|Geographical Coordinates 52.24977,20.99154|
The Museum of History of Polish Jews (Polish: Muzeum Historii Żydów Polskich) is a museum on the site of the former Warsaw Ghetto. The cornerstone was laid in 2007, and the museum was first opened on April 19, 2013. The museum features a multimedia narrative exhibition about the vibrant Jewish community that flourished in Poland for a thousand years, which is to become open to the public in October 2014. The building, a postmodern structure in glass, copper, and concrete, was designed by Finnish architects Rainer Mahlamäki and Ilmari Lahdelma.
The Core Exhibition will occupy more than 4,000 m2 of space, and will present the thousand year history of Polish Jews – once the largest Jewish community in the world. History of Polish Jews will be presented in eight galleries:
Forest – the gallery will tell the tale of how, fleeing from persecution in Western Europe, the Jews come to the land of current Poland. A place where they arrived and were told by the voice that came from the sky – Po-lin (en. Here rested). In this way, Poland for the next 1000 years would become the largest European home for the Jewish community.
First Encounters (the Middle Ages) – devoted to the first Jewish settlers in Poland. Visitors will meet Ibrahim ibn Jakub, a Jewish diplomat from Cordoba, author of famous notes from a trip to Europe. One of the most interesting objects presented in the gallery will be the first sentence written in Yiddish in the Prayer Book of 1272.
Paradisus ludaeoreum (15th and 16th centuries) – this gallery will present how the Jewish community was organized, what role Jews played in the country’s economy. One of the most important elements in this gallery will be an interactive model of Kraków and Jewish Kazimierz, showing the rich culture of the local Jewish community. Visitors will be able to understand that religious tolerance in Poland made it a ‘Paradisus ludaeorum’ – ‘Jewish paradise’. This golden age of the Jewish community in Poland ended in pogroms that occurred during the Khmelnitsky Uprising. This event will be commemorated by a symbolic fire gall leading to the next gallery.
Into the Country (17th and 18th centuries) – this gallery presents the history of Polish Jews until the period of the partitions. It will be shown by an example of a typical borderland town where Jews constituted a significant part of the population. The most important part of this gallery is a unique reconstruction of the roof and ceiling of Gwoździec, a wooden synagogue that was located in Ukraine.
Gwoździec synagogue roof reconstruction at the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw
Temporary exhibition space Encounters with Modernity (19th century) – this part of the exhibition will present the time of the partitions when Jews shared the fate of Polish society divided between Austria, Prussia and Russia. The exhibition will include what role played Jewish entrepreneurs, such as Izrael Kalmanowicz Poznański, in the industrial revolution in Polish lands. This part will also tell visitors about what changes underwent in traditional Jewish rituals and other areas of life, and the emergence of new social movements, religious and political. This period is also marked by the emergence of modern anti-semitism, which Polish Jews had to face. The Street – a gallery devoted to the period of the Second Polish Republic, which is seen – despite the challenges that the young country had to face – as a second golden age in the history of Polish Jews. A graphical timeline will be presented with the most important political events of the interwar period. The exhibition will also highlight Jewish film, theater and literature.
Holocaust – this gallery will show the horror of the Holocaust, which resulted in the deaths of approximately 90% of the 3.3 million Polish Jews. Visitors will be shown the history of the Warsaw Ghetto, and will be introduced to Emanuel Ringelblum and Oneg Shabbat. The gallery will also present various reactions of Poles to the extermination of Jews.
Postwar – the last gallery will show the period after 1945, when most of the survivors of the Holocaust emigrated, mostly because of the post-war takeover of Poland by the Soviets and the state sponsored anti-Semitic campaign in 1968 conducted by the communist authorities. An important date is the year 1989 (marking the end of Soviet domination), followed by the revival of a small but very dynamic Jewish community in Poland.
The exhibition was developed by an international team of scholars and museum professionals from Poland, the United States and Israel as well as the Museum’s curatorial team under the direction of Prof. Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett.
History and time period
The idea for creating a major new museum in Warsaw dedicated to the history of Polish Jews was initiated in 1995 by the Association of the Jewish Historical Institute of Poland. In the same year, the Warsaw City Council allocated the land for this purpose in Muranów, Warsaw’s prewar Jewish neighborhood and site of the former Warsaw Ghetto, facing the Monument to the Warsaw Ghetto Heroes. In 2005, the Association of the Jewish Historical Institute of Poland established a unique private-public partnership with the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage and the City of Warsaw. The Museum's first director was Jerzy Halbersztadt. In September 2006, a specially designed tent called Ohel was erected for exhibitions and events on the museum's future location.
An international architectural competition was launched in 2005, supported by a grant from the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage. On June 30, 2005 the jury announced the winner; a team of two Finnish architects, Rainer Mahlamäki and Ilmari Lahdelma. On June 30, 2009 construction of the building was officially inaugurated. The project was to be finished in 33 months at a cost of PLN 150 million zloty allocated by the Ministry and the City.
The Museum opened the building and began its educational and cultural programs on April 19, 2013 on the 70th Anniversary of Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. During the first few months that followed, more than 180,000 visitors toured the building, visited the first temporary exhibitions, and took part in cultural and educational programs. The Grand Opening, with the completed Core Exhibition, is planned for 28 October 2014.