Newsletter March 2017

March 2017

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Travelling Through History

Visit Poland with our VIP trip and help to support the POLIN Museum

Join us in our annual trip to Poland!

Time-travelling : Warsaw, Krakow & Lublin | June 29, 2017

Our next trip to Poland is going to take place from June 29 to July 2, 2017. In Warsaw alone, not only will we visit the unique POLIN Museum accompanied by its representatives, but our guests will also be able to make their own genealogical tree. We will time-travel to the Krakow of the end of the 19th century, which becomes, every June, the most Jewish and joyful place in Europe, and we will pay a tribute to the extraordinary Jewish academic culture in Lublin.
All funds gathered will exclusively go to the POLIN Museum.


Currently in POLIN Museum

The Jukebox, Jewkbox! – A Jewish Century on Shellac and Vinyl exhibition

Feb. 3 – May 29, 2017

The exhibition presents cantorial music (owing to the invention of a gramophone suddenly present at the homes of the Jewish middle class), songs from the Yiddish theatre, and popular songs from films, revues and musicals. It also presents jazz, folk as well as powerful pieces sung by punk rebels.

Not all of these pieces are quintessentially Jewish – in fact, many of them are not Jewish at all – and yet they all form a reflection of the 20th-century Jewish experience which consisted, among others, of the involvement in various artistic and political movements, assimilation and emancipation and, ultimately, the trauma brought on by the war and the Holocaust.


2016 at the POLIN Museum

In 2016, the Museum was visited by over 580,000 guests, out of which nearly 320,000 visited the core exhibition. 60% of the core exhibition visitors were Polish and 40% were foreign visitors from approx. 60 countries, out of which 25% were from Israel, 11% from the USA and 8% from France.

The increased number of visitors from Israel was one of the Museum’s targets for 2016. This target was met due to visits of Israeli groups and a training program for Israeli tour guides by the Museum.
Among 318,529 visitors of the core exhibition, 190,033 came from Poland, 31,291 from Israel, 14,758 from the US and 11,031 from Germany.

The Virtual Shtetl website had over 1.7 million visitors (an increase of 40% from the previous year). All the Museum’s websites had more than 2.8 million visitors. – smartphone app

March 2017

The POLIN Museum launches a new mobile phone application, “Warsaw, Varshe”, after the success of the corresponding website. The app will let you walk in the footsteps of the Nożyks, Wolańskis, Hirszfelds and Zamenhofs and find important places on the map of Jewish Warsaw, such as Grzybowski Square, Iron-Gate Square, and the streets of Tłomackie, Rymarska, Przejazd, and Nowolipki.

The app is a follow up to an exhibition of the same title and helps one discover the Jewish part of the city – its everyday and club life. With Jewish melodies played in the background, users discover the multi-layered structure of the Paris of the North, as Warsaw was once called in a Yiddish song performed by Ola Lilith-Cederbaum.

For Android
For iPhone

Lecture: From the ashes. On Holocaust and resurrection of Jewish life after the war

January 12, 2017

Available online (in Polish)

This lecture by Alina Skibińska, historian and Polish representative of the Holocaust Museum (USHMM) in Washington D.C., related the stories of Polish Jews who survived the Holocaust. It was a part of the series of lectures “A Life Severed. Jews in Poland in the Years 1944-1968 lectures series” (“Życie przecięte”).
This series itself is a part of a bigger project that AEMJP is proud to support: the exhibition ‘March’68’, which is devoted to the forced departure of thousands of Polish Jews in 1968-1969.

All events related to this project are announced on Facebook.

Polish politics

Polish President in Israel

Janvier 2017

Polish President Andrzej Duda visited Israel in January 2017. In greeting President Duda, Israeli President Rivlin underscored the value that Israel places on its relations with Poland and the European Union and noted that the first country that he visited as president was Poland. Meetings with Poland’s leadership are always relevant, said Rivlin.

According to the Jerusalem Post, President Duda underlined how “Jews had contributed to Poland’s culture and economy over the centuries, and to the defence of Poland against the Nazis in a more contemporary era”. President Duda’s last visit in Israel took place in 2016, when he attended Shimon Peres’s funeral

Jerusalem POST »

Shevach Weiss recognised by the Polish President

On January 17, 2017, Shevach Weiss, former Israeli Ambassador to Poland (2001-2003) and Chairman of the Yad Vashem Council (2000-2006), was awarded the Order of the White Eagle, Poland’s highest official decoration. The ceremony took place in Jerusalem, and Weiss received the medal from Andrzej Duda, Polish President during his visit to the Israeli capital.
Duda qualified Weiss as a “Righteous among the Nations” with respect to the Polish people: the former Ambassador is known for his work on common Polish-Jewish history.
Since 1993, Weis has been a member of an honorary committee whose mission is to gain international support for the Museum of the History of Polish Jews (POLIN).


New property law in Poland

The controversial “Mała ustawa reprywatyzacyjna” (“Small re-privatization law”) was voted by the Polish Parliament and became law on September 17, 2016. The law aims at cutting short the abusive procedure of traffic of property entitlements, due to the lack of straight regulations on the matter. The new law definitely erases the consequences of a 1945 decree abolishing all post-War property claims in Warsaw.
Yet it comes with a major problem: wishing to put an end to a number of pending claims which were not solved in preceding years and where the owners are difficult to find, the law gives six months to those who would like to make relevant claims. After this period, buildings will definitely become the property of the City of Warsaw. Given the scarcity of existing documents, Jewish claimants and their heirs might be among those who will lose the most as a consequence of this new law.

Jerusalem POST »

Prime Minister of Finland in POLIN

Beata Szydlo & Juha Sipilä @ POLIN
Beata Szydlo & Juha Sipilä @ POLIN

Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo and Prime Minister of Finland Juha Sipila met at an exhibition opening in the POLIN Museum: Echoes – 100 Years in Finnish Design and Architecture, on January 12, 2017.

From January 13 to February 23, 2017, the exhibitionpresented selected works by architects and designers from Finland.The Museum building itself was designed by the Finnish architect, Rainer Mahlamäki.

Jewish Life in Poland

March 1968 commemorations

March 9, 2017

On March 9, Golda Tencer from the Warsaw Jewish Theatre and the Shalom Foundation commemorated the events of March 1968, which are going to be at the heart of the exhibition at the POLIN Museum in 2018. The ceremony took place at the Gdansk Railway Station in the northern part of Warsaw, from which hundreds of Jews left Poland at the end of the 1960’s.

Michal Sobelman, the spokesperson of the Israeli Embassy in Warsaw and whose family had to leave Poland in 1969, declared that this year – 1968 – was a symbol of the end of the history of one thousand years of Polish-Jewish community.


Krakow JCC receives grant to create a Jewish nursery school

Autumn 2017

The JCC of Krakow has received a $500,000 grant from the New York City-based Eric and Erica Schwartz Family Foundation.
The funds will support the creation of an Early Childhood Center at JCC Krakow, located in Kazimierz, the heart of the city’s Jewish district. It will be the first time that a pluralistic Jewish nursery school will be open in Krakow since before World War II.

The school is scheduled to open in the fall of 2017, with a pre- opening earlier. The Early Childhood Center, to be named “Frajda” meaning “joy” in both Yiddish and Polish, will be a Jewish pluralistic nursery school serving the growing number of young Jewish families in Krakow.


Former synagogue becomes a hotel

New Synagogue in Poznan
New Synagogue in Poznan

The situation regarding the last free-standing synagogue of Poznan, the New Synagogue in Wroniecka Street, has been resolved.Transformed into a swimming pool by the German occupier, theownership of the building was unclear after 1989, which made all major construction works increasingly difficult. The Jewish community of Poznan took over the building in 2002, yet did notmanage to raise sufficient funds in order to be able to create a Jewish-cultural centre.

The head of the Poznan Jewish community, Alicja Kobus, proposes to transform the building into a luxury hotel leaving space for thecultural center on the ground floor. In March 2017, the enterprise Capital Budownictwo 2 received a construction permit. The official announcement about the details of project is expected in April, but the Polish press speaks about a future Hilton Curio hotel.

Museums around the world

“To Poland” by Abraham Sutzkever

March 20 – May 15, 2017

National Library of Israel, the prestigious Academy of Fine Arts Bezalel in Jerusalem and the Polish Institute in Tel Aviv co-organize a unique project: an exhibition devoted to the poem by Abraham Sutzkever, אל פולין (To Poland). This adieu poem to Poland, written in Yiddish in 1946, is a declaration of love-hate to an ambiguous country, which, however, it is not that easy to leave behind.

The exhibition “To Poland” is a tribute to the poem, 70 years after it was written. At the same time, Fine Arts students in Krakow are preparing an analogous project, the result of which will be shown to the audience in the summer of 2017 in Krakow.


Looted art comes back to the Krakow’s Potocki Palace

February 2017

In December 1939, Lora Waechter, wife of the recently appointed Nazi governor of Krakow: SS Gruppenführer Otto Waechter, took several extremely precious pieces of art from the National Museum inKrakow: “the most exquisite paintings and the most beautiful items of antique furniture, militaria, etc, despite the fact that the director of the museum had warned her against taking masterpieces for this purpose”.

Horst Wächter, the fourth of the SS general’s six children, has spent years trying to return a painting taken by his parents. In February 2017, he attended a ceremony in Krakow at which three stolen works were returned to the Polish government.



Data of 10,000 of Auschwitz staff members online

Poland has published the first online database featuring the names and personal details of nearly 10,000 staff who ran the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camp. The publication was made by joint efforts of the state-run Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) and Auschwitz State Museum.
The database, which the IPN said contained 9,686 names, is part of a wide-ranging project that will cover the staff of other death and concentration camps that Nazi Germany set up in occupied Poland during the Second World War.
The list is built on the work of historian Aleksander Lasik, who thinks that 200 of the former German death camp guards could still be living today. It is now clearer than ever that our understanding of their motivations and of personalities is still insufficient.

Celebrations of the Liberation of Auschwitz

On January 27, 2017, the 72nd anniversary of the liberation was celebrated all over the world. In Paris, UNESCO held an annual conference “Journée internationale dédiée aux victimes de l’Holocauste”, and the Memorial de la Shoah in Paris organized a meeting devoted to new artefacts from Auschwitz discovered in a forgotten room of one of the Warsaw research institutions (“Les objets retrouvés d’Auschwitz”).

Piotr Cywinski & Annette Wieviorka @ Mémorial de la Shoah
Piotr Cywinski & Annette Wieviorka @ Mémorial de la Shoah

Among invited guests was Piotr Cywinski, the director of the Auschwitz State Museum. Dr. Cywinski is going to meet the Friends of the Polin Museum during the trip organized by the AEMJP in June/july 2017.

“To Save Auschwitz”

In January 2017, the French-German TV channel ARTE broadcast a one-hour long documentary by Jonathan Hayoun, “Sauver Auschwitz”, about the history of the Auschwitz death camps and its transformation into a Museum and a place of memory.

We were delighted to listen to a personal story of one of the Friends of the AEMJP and member of its scientific committee, Richard Prasquier.

In Memoriam

Zygmunt Bauman (1925-2017)

We are mourning Zygmunt Bauman, Polish-Jewish sociologist and philosopher who lived in the UK, and who died on 9 January 2017. He left Poland after the anti-Semitic campaign of 1968. He will be remembered very dearly in the upcoming months, as the 1968 events will be commemorated at the occasion of a future exhibition in the POLIN Museum.

He became famous for this theory of “the passage from the ‘solid’ to a ‘liquid'” reality, where social forms “cannot and are not expected to keep their shape for long, because they decompose and melt faster than the time it takes to cast them”. He also wrote on the Holocaust (Modernity and the Holocaust, 1989)

Tzvetan Todorov (1939 – 2017)

Tzvetan Todorov, Bulgarian-French historian, philosopher, structuralist literary critic, sociologist and essayist, died in Paris on February 7, 2017. A disciple of Roland Barthes, he is known among others for his books: Facing The Extreme: Moral Life in the Concentration Camps, The Fragility of Goodness: Why Bulgaria’s Jews Survived the Holocaust and The Morals of History.

Henri Minczeles (1926-2017)

It was with great sadness that we learned of the death of historian Henri Minczeles on March 10, 2017. Author of a number of impressive volumes on Polish-Jewish history, he is known to the English-speaking audience for his Yiddishland.

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