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Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Warsaw, Poland

At first glance Muranow district in Warsaw looks like an ordinary and unremarkable area where ordinary residential buildings of the Soviet era are situated. However, in fact, the whole area stands on the site of the Warsaw ghetto, which was the largest one on the territory of Europe. In the heart of the former ghetto is standing a brand-new building, which is very different from the surrounding “Khrushchevkas”. This is the building of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews (Muzeum Historii Żydów Polskich). The place, where the museum is standing, has symbolic meaning. It stands on the site of the former ghetto council center, next to the monument to the Ghetto Heroes, where in 1970 German Chancellor Willy Brandt knelt down as a historic gesture and an apology on behalf of his country to the Jewish people.

The idea of creating a museum of the Jewish history in Warsaw was initiated by the Institute of Jewish history in Poland. The construction of the building was funded by several Polish governmental organizations and individuals.

The project of the building was selected as a result of international competition (held in 2005). The winners were Finnish architects Rainer Mahlamäki and Ilmari Lahdelma. Construction began in 2009. Museum partly opened on April 19, 2013 in honor of the seventieth anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

The building has a form of strict parallelepiped. The foundation area of the building is about 4000 square meters, and the whole museum has 13,000 square meters of usable floor space. The museum has eight galleries, which are designed for different expositions, representing thousand years of Jewish history in Poland. External walls of the building are built of limestone and glass panels with fine pattern. There is a huge gap on the main facade, which faces the monument of Ghetto Heroes. The gap symbolizes the waters of the Red Sea, which according to the biblical story opened the way to the safety in front of Prophet Moses. On the glass panels of the building in Latin and Hebraic letters is written the word «Polin», which in Hebrew means both Poland and also "Here you can rest". According to tradition, Jews considered ambiguous translation of this word a good omen in the Middle Ages, when they were willingly settling down on the territory of Poland, known for its tolerance towards the Jewish people.

Inside the building the symbolism of architectural details continues. The main hall of the building has wavy walls as in a cave, and the empty space between the walls symbolizes the cracks in the history of Jewish people. The building aims to show its visitors not only the Holocaust, but also bright moments in the history of this nation in Poland.

By Anna Pambukhchyan,


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