Museum of Polish Jews in Warsaw Opens Core Exhibition

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The Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Warsaw, October 2014Credit: Museum of the History of Polish Jews

As anti-Jewish sentiment rises across Europe, Poland is welcoming what its one of its backers described as the "Museum of Life" – the Tuesday opening of the core exhibition of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw.

The New York Times reports that the museum traces the history of the country's Jews from the Middle Ages to the present. The Holocaust is the focus of one of the building's eight galleries, the Times reports.

I would see these young people from America and Israel making their visits to Poland,” Sigmund A. Rolat, a labor-camp survivor who became one of three U.S. entrepreneurs to finance the project in its early years, told the Times. “And what would they see? Death camps and cemeteries and empty places where synagogues used to be. Ours is not another museum of the Holocaust. We are more than victims. Ours is a museum of life.”

In 1939, the Times reports, 3.5 million Jews lived in Poland. They were 30% of Warsaw's population. About 300,000 Jews survived World War II. Now, some 25,000 Jews remain in Poland, a tiny fraction of the country's 38 million people.

Younger Jews in the country are now reclaiming their heritage, the paper writes.

The $67 million museum has been in the works for more than two decades, and the building opened in April 2013, housing a number of temporary projects. But the 43,000-square-foot (4,000-square-meter) core exhibition now has opened.