Warsaw (AFP) – Poland’s right-wing government on Wednesday said a planned museum devoted to the infamous wartime Warsaw Ghetto, where Nazi Germany imprisoned nearly 500,000 Jews during the Holocaust, would convey the centuries of close ties between Poles and Jews.
“I would like this institution to speak of the mutual love between the two nations that spent 800 years here, on Polish land. Of the solidarity, fraternity, historical truth too, in all its aspects,” Culture Minister Piotr Glinski told reporters.
The museum, which was first announced in November, “is not an institution created ad hoc because of today’s heightened Polish-Jewish or Polish-American dialogue,” he added.
Relations between Poland and Israel have been strained since January over Warsaw’s controversial new Holocaust bill, which sets fines or up to three years in jail for anyone who notably ascribes Nazi German crimes to Poland.
But Israel sees the law as a bid to deny that certain Poles participated in the genocide of Jews during World War II — which Poland refutes — while the US has also expressed concern over freedom of speech.
This month also marks 50 years since Poland’s then communist regime launched a brutal anti-Semitic campaign that prompted at least 12,000 Jews to leave the country.
The museum’s opening is planned for 2023 to coincide with the 80th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, which was the first large-scale armed rebellion against Hitler’s forces during World War II. It ultimately failed.
The museum will be located in a former Jewish hospital that was built at the end of the 19th-century and which stands next to the only remaining fragment of the ghetto wall.
A year after invading Poland, Nazi Germany set up the Warsaw Ghetto in the heart of the occupied Polish capital in October 1940.
Nearly half a million Polish Jews were confined in its squalid quarters, measuring just three square kilometres (1.2 square miles).
The Nazis deported those who did not fall victim to rampant hunger or disease to death camps.
Speaking at the museum press conference, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki highlighted the plight of the ghetto’s Jews and of occupied Poland in general.
“Responsibility lies with Germans, with the German nation, but also with those who did not come to help, with the Allies,” he said.