Warsaw has many great museums, but if there is one that simply has to be seen, it is the Polish Jews History Museum. The history of Poland’s Jews is a long and rich one, but it is also marked by tragedy, with the country being hit particularly hard by the holocaust. Indeed, it is in Poland that films such as Schindler’s List and The Pianist, both movies based on real events, are set.
World War Two marked an attempt to eliminate a people with a thousand-year legacy in the country and it came close to succeeding. Yet it failed – and the museum tells why. The long history of a people is told alongside the story of how enough of them survived to still be able to tell it. The museum certainly does offer a learning experience. Founded in 2005 by the Association of the Jewish Historical Institute of Poland, the City of Warsaw and the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, acts as a centre of culture and education, with plenty of temporary exhibitions, plus debates, films, lectures and other events taking place regularly.
In addition, the central feature – and exhibition on a millennium of Polish Jewry – has been in place since October 2014. Comprised of artefacts, multimedia presentations and first-hand accounts, this exhibition covers around 43,000 sq ft and over 120 scholars were involved in its establishment. It is split into eight chapters, each one telling of a different period in the history of Warsaw’s jews. Of particular note is the information about the Warsaw Ghetto in the Nazi period, which occupied the site the museum stands on and was cleared when the Germans transported its population away to concentration camps, most of whom never left.
For all that the tale is often a grim one, it is a story that will be thought-provoking and informative, ensuring visitors to Warsaw will gain a deep understanding of the contribution of a people to the city’s often turbulent history.