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Poland and Polin

New Interpretations in Polish-Jewish Studies


Edited By Irena Grudzińska-Gross and Iwa Nawrocki

The contributions in this volume reflect discussions and controversies during the Princeton University Conference on Polish-Jewish Studies (April 18–19, 2015). The debates examined the politics of history in Poland, as well as the scholarly and pedagogical need to move beyond national and diasporic narratives in researching and teaching Polish-Jewish subjects. They focused on the role and meaning of the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews.
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Wall and Window: the Rubble of the Warsaw Ghetto as the Narrative Space of the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews


Introducing the project of the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in a 2011 lecture, Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, the director of the Museum’s design team, declared while presenting an archival photographic image: “This is the site of the Warsaw ghetto after it was completely destroyed, and it is here that we are building this museum. What it means is that we don’t have a great collection, we don’t have historic buildings, we don’t have the historical fabric of where Jews once lived. We are really, truly building on the rubble.”1

This statement, pronounced while the process of constructing the Museum’s building was still underway, establishes a point of departure for the Museum’s design in both a literal and metaphorical sense. Its building certainly does stand directly on the crushed fabric of what was once the largest Jewish space in Europe, “the Jewish Metropolis,” as it was recently proclaimed.2 The modern glass surfaces of the Museum’s facades contrast not only with the complete nonexistence of the prewar city’s built environment, but even with the residential architecture of the postwar district of Muranów where it is located. “Building on the rubble” indeed constitutes an act of spatial and temporal separation. The emergence of this Museum was seen by its managers as a chance to mark a break from the metaphorical “rubble” left by the destruction, a chance to clear the discursive and visual remnants that define the semantics of Holocaust commemoration. Historian Dariusz Stola, the...

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