Warsaw's Jewish Community Sues Jewish Museum for Copyright Violations

The lawsuit concerns translations of four fragments of historical Yiddish articles published on the community's website, which were posted on the museum's website.

In this Friday, Oct. 10, 2014 photo, a visitor walks through a gallery depicting a street scene typical of those found between 1919 and 1939 at the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, Poland.
A visitor walks through a gallery depicting a street scene typical of those found between 1919 and 1939 at the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, Poland, Oct. 10, 2014. Czarek Sokolowski, AP Photo

The Jewish Community of Warsaw is alleging that the Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews violated its copyright on translations of historical texts.

According to the museum, the suit demands that IT remove fragments of translations of historical texts from the museum’s website, pay the Warsaw Jewish community $7,500 and issue a written apology.

Anna Chipczynska, president of the Jewish Community of Warsaw, asserts that the museum, which opened in 2014 to great fanfare, is overshadowing the activities of communities in presenting historical events to visitors. In a December 2015 interview for Plotkies, a Polish language magazine for emigres forced out of the country in 1968, she said that “there is a great risk that in the future, focusing on this educational institution as a Polish visiting card to the world  will lead to the collapse of (Jewish) communities or to an international scandal.”

Jakub Wozniak, head of the communications department of the Polin Museum, believes that the activities of the museum do not hamper the activities of Jewish communities. He said the museum supports the communities, for example, with a Virtual Shtetl website that catalogues the country’s lost Jewish communities and joint initiatives such as the “joint ticket to Jewish history,” which offers discounts on visits to exhibitions, a historic synagogue and a Jewish cemetery in Warsaw. “We have very good relations and maintain regular contact with representatives of the Jewish community in Poland,” Wozniak told JTA.

The lawsuit concerns translations by Anna Cialowicz and Aleksandra Geller of four fragments of historical Yiddish articles published on the community’s website, which were then posted on the website of the museum.

Wozniak told JTA that the community demands the removal from the museum’s website of one article translated by Cialowicz and removal of three films published on the Museum’s YouTube channel that use translations of three articles from the Jewish community’s website.

This is not the only lawsuit related to alleged copyright violation by the Polin Museum. On Oct. 14 in District Court in Warsaw, a lawsuit by Cialowicz accuses the Polin Museum and Agora SA publisher of using her translations of Yiddish articles and omitting her name in a book they published, “Walking in Jewish Warsaw.” The next hearing in that case is scheduled for Jan. 24, 2017.

In recent years, various organizations have competed to represent the Polish Jewish community and be seen as its representative within the country and abroad. For Hanukkah this year, Polish Jewish organizations decided to organize separate events. Chabad Lubavitch, joined by the Jewish Social-Cultural Association in Poland, or TSKŻ, and the From the Depths organization is organizing a Hanukkah concert in the Polin Museum on Dec. 29. One day before, Chabad will hold, as it does every year, a Hanukkah candle lighting ceremony in the Polish parliament.

The Jewish community is planning to hold a Hanukkah Ball for its members and their families, but has not provided details due to security reasons.