Poland is on course to open a long-delayed museum dedicated to its near vanished Jewish minority next year, Culture Minister Bogdan Zdrojewski said Tuesday, lauding the project’s global impact.
“It will be an important institution not only in Europe, but in the world,” Zdrojewski said at a presentation for the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in New York.
“Five years ago, almost nobody believed there’d be a positive ending,” he said, referring to the museum’s difficult gestation. “We are close to completing the construction part. In March next year we are starting the installations.”
The museum is being built in Warsaw on the site of the World War II Jewish Ghetto that became a symbol of resistance to Nazi Germany’s efforts to eradicate 1,000 years of Jewish presence in the country.
However, the presentation, which kicked off a year-long publicity program, was held at New York’s World Trade Center. The United States, where about 70 percent of Jews claim Polish roots, has been key for securing funding.
Larry Silverstein, the World Trade Center leaseholder playing a key role in reconstruction of the complex destroyed on September 11, 2001, told the presentation that next year’s 70th anniversary of the failed Warsaw Uprising against the Germany military would recall “a horror that few people understood at that time.”
“This is an extraordinary occasion to be celebrating the reality of this museum,” he said.
Poland was once home to the largest Jewish population in the world, with about 3.5 million Jews living there on the eve of the Holocaust, or 10 percent of the country.
By the end of World War II, three million Polish Jews had perished and nearly as many Poles, many of them in Nazi death camps at Auschwitz, Birkenau, Maidanek and Treblinka.
Organizers stressed that the museum is intended to recall the richness of Jewish life in Poland over the last millenium, rather than just the tragedy of World War II.