Overcoming the Trauma of Mass Violence: Museum of the History of Polish Jews and Its Attempt to Bring One Thousand Years of Polish-Jewish History out from the Shadow of Holocaust

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 17:30
Oral Presentation
Jonathan SCOVIL, University of Warsaw, Poland
The paper analyzes the ways in which the creators of the main exposition of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw (POLIN), opened in 2014, tried to impact collective memory about Polish-Jewish relations, deeply marked by the images of XX-th century cases of mass violence. The author describes three originating from this tension targets of the Museum's main message, which are: 1) bringing one hundred years of Polish-Jewish history out from the shadow of Holocaust; 2) presenting the main actors of Museum's exhibition not as "Jews from Poland" or "Jews, who once lived in Poland", but as trully "Polish Jews", who have unique Polish-Jewish identity, which can't be simply reduced just to Polishness or Jewishness; 3) showing a balanced vision of Polish-Jewish relations, which was comapred by one of the authors of the exposition to a "marriage of conveniance" and which contains both episodes of violence and peaceful, fertile cohabitation, not favorizing any of these aspects of the image. The paper provides also a wider background to all of these targets, by showing the beliefs and the stereotypes – common among Poles, Jews and other nations – creators of the exposition wanted to deal with: e.g. a stereotype of a "Pole-antisemite" linked with wrongful image of "Polish death camps", or, on the contrary, a belief that as it comes to Polish-Jewish relations during the World War II Poles have nothing to feel guilt about (still surprisingly popular among Poles, as the results of contemporary researches show).