Jewish museum to be built on site of Warsaw Ghetto

Tue Jun 30, 2009 11:09am EDT
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By Gareth Jones

WARSAW (Reuters Life!) - With psalms, poems and popular Yiddish songs, Poles and Jews celebrated on Tuesday the start of construction of a new museum that will chronicle Poland's rich and colorful Jewish heritage.

The Museum of the History of Polish Jews, set for completion in 2011, is being built on the site of the Warsaw Ghetto, razed by the Nazis in 1943 after an abortive Jewish uprising.

"This is going to be a living museum located in a place scarred by death," Warsaw's mayor, Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, said at a ground-breaking ceremony also attended by Poland's culture minister, foreign ambassadors and U.S. Jewish groups.

For centuries, Poland was home to one of the world's largest Jewish communities, providing a climate of relative tolerance for Jews fleeing persecution elsewhere in Europe.

Most of Poland's 3.5 million Jews were murdered by the Nazis during World War Two.

Organizers say the five-storey, multi-media museum, which will include a library, a cinema, a concert hall and cafes, is intended to document a millennium of Jewish life in Poland. Only a relatively small section will cover the time of the Holocaust.

"There are already a number of museums devoted to the Holocaust. But this museum is going to show the civilization and culture that the Holocaust destroyed," said Marcin Swiecicki, chairman of the Polish committee supporting the museum.

"This museum aims to show the importance of pluralism as well as allowing visitors to see how their ancestors lived."   Continued...

<p>Zygmunt Rolat, Chairman of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews North American Support Council, holds a brick during the ground breaking ceremony of the museum in Warsaw June 30, 2009. REUTERS/Peter Andrews</p>