One of the most ambitious museum projects of recent years has begun in Warsaw. On 30 June, a number of Polish and international dignitaries took part in ceremonies consecrating The Museum of the History of Polish Jews. The enterprise will explore a thousand year heritage, utilising the most hi-tech multimedia installations.
“Setting up this museum is not only a local matter or a matter only of Warsaw, it is building bridges based on respect and an understanding of our common history. This museum will show the richness of life, although it will be raised in a place with the stigma of death,” said Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, mayor of Warsaw.
The winning design for the building – a glass and limestone concoction – was made by acclaimed Finnish architects Rainer Mahlamaki and Ilmari Lahdelma.
Construction is due for completion in March 2012. Meanwhile, the museum has just launched a virtual complement to the enterprise. A website named “The Virtual Shtetl” chronicles Jewish heritage right across the historic Polish lands. Already, some 800 Polish cities and small towns are featured, with many more planned.
“This portal has the potential to become the greatest source of information about Jewish life in Poland prior to the war,” explained Albert Stankowski, who conceived the project.
About three and a half million Jews lived in Poland before the war. However, 90 percent of this community perished at the hands of the German occupiers. Thousands more left Poland in 1968, after the Communist Party launched an “anti-Zionist campaign”, in the wake of pro-democracy liberation riots.
The portal can be explored at www.sztetl.org.pl.