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Museum Of The History Of Polish Jews Goes To Washington


         On March 13 representatives of The Museum Of The History Of Polish Jews addressed the Helsinki Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe regarding the importance and aims of its institution.

 

        Congressman Alcee Hastings of Florida, chairman of the Helsinki Commission, said that during a recent trip to Poland he had, “met the director of the museum and been introduced to the extraordinary vision of this extraordinary museum.”

 

         Mr. Hastings showed an appreciation for the need of the museum and asked poignant questions that were answered by the witnesses for the museum.

 

        Representing the museum at the hearing held at the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill were: Under-Secretary of State at the Chancellery of the President of the Republic of Poland, Ms. Ewa Junczyk-Ziomecka; Ewa Wierzynska, deputy director of the museum, responsible for museum contacts with the Jewish community in the U.S. as well as museum promotion; and Mr. Sigmund Rolat, the chairman of the board of directors of the Museum’s North American Council.

 

         Each witness gave a five-minute address detailing the vision, mission, physical attributes of the proposed museum as well as the importance of such an institution to exist in Poland.

 

         Material that was submitted for the record at the hearing included plans of the building as well as the exhibits and how the budget will be used to build a unique museum using the latest technology to deliver the museum’s message to its visitors.

 

         The goal of the museum is to highlight the 1,000 years of Polish Jewish history, not just the six years of the Holocaust. “When A Jew conjures up an image of the old shtetl it invariably takes place in Poland but when he thinks of Polish -Jewish relations he thinks of the Shoah and anti-Semitism,” one participant in the hearing said. “Actually both are true; the goal of the museum is to show both sides.”

 

         But the target audience of the museum is not just Jews who come to visit Poland but, hopefully, a visit of the museum will become part of the curriculum of the school system in Poland. The goal is to educate young Poles about the Jewish heritage that had existed in Poland.

 

 


Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Museum’s North American Council, Mr. Sigmund Rolat, speaking at the hearing on Capitol Hill with Ewa Wierzynska and Ewa Junczyk-Ziomecka behind him.

 

 

         Co-Chairman of the Helsinki Commission, Senator Benjamin L. Cardin, stated, “With a large number of Polish Americans and Jewish Americans of Polish origin, I believe that our country is also a stakeholder in the success of this endeavor This museum will serve as a living educational center that will contribute to combating anti-Semitism, bigotry and intolerance in all its forms.”

 

        Congressman Christopher H. Smith of N.J. said that he has been following the development of the museum project for several years now. He explained that it was because of the obvious importance of the museum that he introduced HR3320, which authorizes five million dollars in support for the museum. The bill has already passed in the House of Representatives and is up for consideration in the Senate.

 

         “Our contribution of five million dollars will be more then just a symbol of American commitment to religious freedom and it’s fight against anti-Semitism It will be a reminder of the historical ties that bind Polish Jews in the U.S. to their roots. I, for one, look forward to visiting the museum when it is completed and supporting what has been called a “restitution of Memory.”

 

         After the hearing was officially over there was a very friendly informal reception in the Capitol building, in which professional and personal ties were further cemented.  

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More Articles from Shmuel Ben Eliezer
Arnold Fine 2008

I REMEMBER WHEN I first started working at the Jewish Press 18 years ago, Arnie who was in charge of the newsroom, took me under his wing…

The official beginning of World War II was September 1, 1939. On that day German soldiers invaded Gdansk after bombarding the city with a military warship. As part of the Polish Government’s official series of events marking seven decades since the start of World War II, Poland’s Jewish community and the Jerusalem-based “Shavei Israel” organization held a special ceremony yesterday in the Gdansk synagogue to commemorate the outbreak of the war, which paved the way for the Holocaust.

The official beginning of World War II was September 1, 1939. On that day German soldiers invaded Gdansk after bombarding the city with a military warship. As part of the Polish Government’s official series of events marking seven decades since the start of World War II, Poland’s Jewish community and the Jerusalem-based “Shavei Israel” organization held a special ceremony yesterday in the Gdansk synagogue to commemorate the outbreak of the war, which paved the way for the Holocaust.

September 1, 1939 is the date on which Germany invaded Poland, starting WWII. While it should be said that the start of the war was not the start of the Shoah, which actually began with the rise of Nazism in 1933, it was a major milestone in the annals of the Holocaust. Within the first few days of the war, Germany had conquered and/or bombed much of Poland, including the capital, Warsaw.

September 1, 1939 is the date on which Germany invaded Poland, starting WWII. While it should be said that the start of the war was not the start of the Shoah, which actually began with the rise of Nazism in 1933, it was a major milestone in the annals of the Holocaust. Within the first few days of the war, Germany had conquered and/or bombed much of Poland, including the capital, Warsaw.

In September 1939 the Germans started establishing ghettos in the occupied territory of Poland. Ghettos played an important role in the Jewish extermination policy. They were filled with Polish and Western European Jewish deportees. The ghettos differed in times of existence, size, internal organization, and living conditions. The Germans called them ” death boxes” (Todeskiste). The city of Lodz belonged to the Wartheland District and the Germans changed its name into Litzmannstadt.

In September 1939 the Germans started establishing ghettos in the occupied territory of Poland. Ghettos played an important role in the Jewish extermination policy. They were filled with Polish and Western European Jewish deportees. The ghettos differed in times of existence, size, internal organization, and living conditions. The Germans called them ” death boxes” (Todeskiste). The city of Lodz belonged to the Wartheland District and the Germans changed its name into Litzmannstadt.

Growing up in the U.S. during the second half of the 20th century, I, along with most people, know very little about the First World War. The little that I did know was about the trench warfare in France and Belgium. The Eastern Front was barely, if ever, mentioned and usually stated that it ended with the Russian Revolution and overthrowing the Czar.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/museum-of-the-history-of-polish-jews-goes-to-washington/2008/04/09/

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