Schindler’s triumphant comeback

An unscientific Internet survey about what the City of Krakow should do with the old Oskar Schindler Factory suggests that most residents are not opposed to the city’s idea of using part of it for a modern-art museum.  Opponents of the art museum, who say such a facility should not be built on ground hallowed to Jews, argue that the survey was flawed.They don’t want the art museum at the factory ? even if a Museum of the Righteous Among Nations, which is another idea, is also built at the facility in the city’s Zablocie area. The term “Righteous Among Nations” is used by the State of Israel to describe non-Jews who risked their lives during the Holocaust to save Jews from extermination by the Nazis.The city has said that it has no problem with both museums being at the factory, but some opponents want only a Museum of the Righteous Among Nations there. Opponents also suggest that the city’s contention that it has no problem with both museums is a ruse to get the art museum completed without the believers museum.   “What purpose should the former Oskar Schindler Factory serve?” the city asked on its web site, www.krakow.pl.Those who know polling say Internet surveys do not reflect public opinion because they are not done with scientific sampling methods. However, residents? responses to the question about the factory’s future gave city officials some notions of what the public wants.And they used the results to bolster their case for building the museum, which some city leaders and other residents oppose. Most of those who participated in the Internet survey said they either favor a Museum of Modern Art at the factory or have no problems with two museums there. Mayor Jacek Majchrowski, who came up with the art-museum idea, has been trying to turn it into a reality for years. So far the only progress on the project has been the renovation of some factory floors with Ministry of Culture funds.Some city council members want the factory to be turned into a Museum of the Righteous Among Nations. The Yad Vashem Institute in Jerusalem has not opposed this initiative. The Yad Vashem Institute is Israel’s official organization established as a memorial to the victims of the Holocaust in 1953 through the Memorial Law passed by the Knesset, Israel’s parliament. Some members of the Law and Justice Party and some residents ” it is unclear how many ” maintain that a modern art gallery is an inappropriate use of a facility associated with the Holocaust.Forty-eight percent of those who responded to the Internet survey said they favored the factory becoming a modern art museum. Thirty percent said they had no problem with co-locating both an art museum and a museum for the righteous at the factory.Only 21 percent of the respondents objected to putting a modern art museum at the factory. Opponents of the art museum contended that the way the city set up the Internet survey helped give art-museum supporters the results they hoped for. Respondents could answer only one question ? whether they were for or against an art-museum being located at the factory, opponents contended.There were no additional questions that could offer shades of opinion, opponents said. And there was no place where respondents could offer arguments either for or against the art-museum project, opponents added. Some Law and Justice Party members maintained that the Internet survey was simply another piece of the city’s campaign to put the art museum in the factory.  Whether or not that contention is right, there is no disputing that Internet surveys are not scientific so they often do not reflect the truth about public opinion. One of the problems with Internet surveys, critics of the surveys contend, is that only those who are passionate about an issue respond. Their views may be different from those of the public in general. The only way to get a true picture of public opinion is to contact members of the public randomly, critics of Internet surveys contend.      Janusz Sepiol, cultural affairs attorney of the Krakow Mayor’s Office, said art museum opponents? suggestions that city officials have already decided to put only the art museum in the factory are untrue.”Talking about the whole thing in terms of an already settled matter is a misconception,” he said. “At the moment we are starting renovations, which are to be finished by autumn 2008, so that the factory could host exhibitions organized by both museums in March 2009.””I would not like the Schindler Factory to become a Museum of the Righteous Among Nations only, as it would mean serious narrowing of the possibilities for successful adaptation of this place,” Sepiol said. “In my opinion, this problem is being blown out of proportion. For me, this problem actually does not exist, as I think that this place is big enough to host both institutions at the same time.”Ryszard Horowitz, a world-renowned photographer of Jewish descent, and former Aushwitz prisoner who worked at the Schindler Factory as a child, agrees with Sepiol. He has asked the city council to prevent the factory from becoming only an ethnic-related museum.Meanwhile, the city is close to finalizing its contract with the Italians who won the art-museum design competition, Sepiol said.Krakow appointed a panel of 11 experts, chaired by well-known Warsaw architect Konrad Kucza, to select the winning design. The panel said Claudio Nardi’s and Leonardo Maria Proli’s design blended harmoniously with the factory’s original architecture.

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