A bridge across the chasm
In the heart of the demolished Warsaw Ghetto, a millennium of Jewish life in Poland is being brought back to life in a new museum, as Poland seeks to turn a page in its own emotion-laden history, and shape a future in the 21st century with a new look at its past.
The state-of-the-art Museum of the History of Polish Jews, which is expected to open its doors next year on the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, will showcase what was the largest Jewish community in Europe before their decimation in the Holocaust, in an effort to promote dialogue and break stereotypes among Poles as well as among Jews nearly seven decades after the Holocaust.
“Many people tend to associate Jews and Poland with death, with concentration camps, with cemeteries and nothing else,” said Agnieszka Rudzinska, the museum’s director. “Poles may be surprised to learn about the multicultural heritage of [what was] for centuries a non-homogeneous country.”
“Everyone who comes to Poland to see Auschwitz will now come to see the context of what was lost.”
The idea to create such a museum comes at a time of increased Polish awareness of their mixed role in the Holocaust following four decades of a virtual news and educational blackout on the subject in Poland during Communist rule.
“Recapturing the history of the Jews of Poland fits in to the larger project of recreating a liberal, democratic Poland,” said Prof. Moshe Rosman of the Department of Jewish History at Bar-Ilan University.