Vanessa Gera describes the new Jewish museum rising in Warsaw, scheduled to open its doors in April 2013, the 70 anniversary of the Warsaw ghetto uprising:
“It is a museum of life,” said Sigmund Rolat, a Polish-born Holocaust survivor and American benefactor who has helped bring the museum to life. “We are showing 1,000 years of a magnificent history.”
Construction of the building is nearly finished and the museum is scheduled to open in 2013 after nearly 20 years of planning. It will be a celebratory moment for those who have struggled to build a home for this story, among them Polish-born Holocaust survivors with a deep affection for their land of birth: Men like Rolat, 82, and Tad Taube, 81, a Krakow-born entrepreneur who leads two California-based philanthropies that have given $16 million to the project.
The museum fulfills a dream of Jews from around the world to preserve the rich legacy of their ancestors by creating what will be the first-ever museum of Polish Jewish history. Meanwhile, the Polish government, a major partner, also seeks to celebrate both the country’s Jewish past and its own past eras of cultural tolerance and diversity. In doing so, the young democracy hopes to burnish its Western credentials and shed a reputation for anti-Semitism that has hung over it in recent decades.
Jewish history was largely ignored in the communist era, and the fact that the museum has risen with the help of the Polish government makes it a monument to a new consciousness and wealth.
“No doubt it is thanks to democracy in Poland that this museum could be created,” said Warsaw Mayor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz.