Commemoration and Recognition

POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews

​It is impossible to overstate the importance of this project to two communities whose thousand year old history has been buried or denied since the World War.​ Set in the heart of Warsaw’s former Jewish district and on the wartime ghetto site, this Museum commemorates the extraordinary contribution of the Jews to Polish life over ten centuries, and of the Polish Jews to the evolution of Judaism. It’s aim is to promote tolerance and respect for ethnic difference and to celebrate the contribution Polish Jews have made to Europe’s social, cultural, economic and political development.

Housed in a landmark building by Lahdelma & Malmäki, the displays have been described as a theatre of history in seven acts, with prologue and epilogue. Entry to the exhibition is down a grand staircase into a poetic forest, a space of historical imagination inspired by the legend of Polin, which in Hebrew means ‘Rest Here’. Visitors then cross the threshold between legend and history and the story proper begins in the tenth century with the first Jewish travellers arriving in Poland. By around 1500 there were Jews settled in more than a hundred towns and villages across the country.

Visitors explore Jewish life in Poland through a series of involving and memorable interpretive experiences, immersing themselves in an evocation of the first encounters between Jews and Poles, discovering a Golden Age of Polish Jewry during the 16th and 17th centuries, experiencing shtetl life and wondering at the magnificent wooden synagogue that once stood in Gwożdziec.

Arriving at the 20th Century, they enter a multimedia “Jewish Street” and explore the lively cultural activity of the interwar period - before being confronted with the German invasion of Poland on 1 September 1939.

Visitors are asked to ‘forget’ what they already know and to put themselves in the shoes of those who knew little about what was going to happen to them. Only gradually do we “lift the veil” on the annihilation of about three million Polish Jews in German death camps in occupied Poland.

Visitors exit into a white space, a break in the narration, before entering the postwar period – or epilogue.

Set across ten centuries, the Museum incorporates the voices of Jew and Pole, weaving a rich, human narrative from a complex common history.

Project type

Museum

Scope of works

  • Masterplanning
  • Interpretative Planning
  • Graphic Design

Scale

4,000m2

Location

Warsaw, Poland

Programme

2006-2011

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