The Museum of the History of Polish Jews announced its official opening date—October 28, 2014—and now the Warsaw museum has a director. Poland’s Minister of Culture and National Heritage Bogdan Zdrojewski announced the appointment of Dr. Dariusz Stola, an author and historian, who will take the helm at the museum on March 1. Stola is a professor at the Institute of Political Studies, Polish Academy of Sciences, and a fellow at Warsaw University’s Center for Migration Research. Tad Taube, a distinguished benefactor of the museum, offered his congratulations, saying, “His scholarship is world-renowned and his vision for the Museum is impressive.”
The news is of particular interest to Tablet, as several of our staffers were present for the museum’s soft opening in April 2013, which coincided with Warsaw’s city-wide commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (you can check out our full coverage of the trip here). As Allison Hoffman wrote in her profile of Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, the NYU scholar who designed the museum’s impressive core exhibition, “The new Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw is many things: a memorial, a monument, a meeting place. It’s also a visual metaphor, a concrete cube encased in glass curtain walls split in half by a roof-height gash.”
The museum is both an architectural feat as well as an important living monument of sorts—not just to the Holocaust, and perhaps not even primarily to the Holocaust, but to centuries of rich, diverse Jewish life in Poland. Still, it is rooted very much in the 20th century trauma of Polish Jewry. The museum sits on the site of the former Warsaw Ghetto, the largest in occupied Europe, and directly across from the ghetto fighters monument, Nathan Rapoport’s large-scale memorialization of the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
What the museum is attempting to do is a hefty undertaking, but if our tour through the museum almost a year ago is any indication, they are well on their way. It’s a dynamic, ambitious project, and I’m personally very excited to see what it’s able to accomplish.
Stephanie Butnick is deputy editor of Tablet Magazine and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.