WARSAW, Poland – A museum on the history of Polish Jews has made huge strides toward its planned opening next year thanks to several million dollars in new donations announced this week, officials said Wednesday.
The Museum of the History of Polish Jews, going up in the heart of the former Warsaw Ghetto, will narrate the 1,000-year history of Jews in Poland. It is a history that is unknown to many and that has been overshadowed by the tragedy of the Holocaust, which was carried out by Germany in occupied Poland.
The highly anticipated museum is expected to open in the fall of 2013, in the 70th anniversary year of the doomed Warsaw ghetto uprising.
The museum said it received a joint $7-million donation from the Koret Foundation and the Taube Foundation for Jewish Life & Culture, California-based philanthropies chaired by Tad Taube, a Polish-born American businessman.
Jan Kulczyk, a Polish oil tycoon, also announced a gift of 20 million Polish zlotys ($6 million) this week.
Museum officials hailed the gifts Wednesday, saying the money will allow them to finish the museum's core exhibition, a multimedia space that will guide visitors chronologically from the Middle Ages to the present day.
Until shortly before the Holocaust, there were about 3.5 million Jews living in Poland, the largest Jewish community in the world and the land of ancestry for many Jews living across the world today. Polish Jews were also about 10 percent of the larger population of Poland, and they made significant contributions to Polish culture, science and politics.
"There is no history of Poland without the Jews and no history of Jews without Poland," said Piotr Wislicki, the chairman of the Jewish Historical Institute of Poland.
The museum says it expects to become Europe's largest Jewish history museum and an institution that will "take its place alongside the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington and Yad Vashem in Jerusalem as one of the most important institutions of its kind."
"The key difference is that the Museum of the History of Polish Jews will extend the historical narrative beyond the Holocaust to encompass an epic Jewish heritage — from which the majority of world Jewry descends and that, even today, shapes contemporary Jewish life all across the globe," the museum said.