On Tuesday 28 October 2014, the Director-General of UNESCO, Ms Irina Bokova, undertook an official visit to Warsaw (Republic of Poland) on the occasion of the official inauguration of the core permanent exhibition of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, built on the site of the city's former Ghetto and in front of the monument to the Ghetto Heroes.
The ceremony was opened by H.E. Mr Bronislaw Komorowski, President of the Republic of Poland, and H.E. Mr Reuven Rivlin, President of the State of Israel, followed by a number of Polish officials and representatives from the Museum, including its Director, Mr Dariusz Stola, the Vice-Chairman of the Jewish Historical Institute Association, Mr Marian Turski, the Minister of Culture and National Heritage, Ms Malgorzata Omilanowska, and the Mayor of Warsaw, Ms Hanna Beata Gronkiewicz-Waltz. The Museum represents a timely platform to restore historic memory to its full dimension and a vibrant testimony of the history of Poland and of the Polish-Jewish/Polish-Israeli relations, emphasizing the fact that for a very long time Poland, for Jews, was "home".
The first cultural institution resulting from a public-private partnership - between the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, the Jewish Historical Institute Association and several donors - the Museum of the History of Polish Jews intends to raise awareness of the millennial presence of Jewish people, from the Middle Ages to the post-War era. A "museum of life", widely opened to the youth in particular, and providing rich pedagogical and scientific content, this modern and forward-looking research body is a concrete example of dialogue and mutual understanding through honest and rigourous analysis of history.
On the same day, the Director-General held a bilateral meeting with Mr Grzegorz Schetyna, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland, which allowed for a discussion on ongoing cooperation between UNESCO and the country, as well as on major global challenges. A working meeting took place at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in the presence of Ms Henryka Moscicka-Dendys, Undersecretary of State, focusing on Polish priorities within the Organization's programmes and ways towards the stronger involvement of Poland in achieving common goals.
Message from the Director-General
I welcome the inauguration of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, in which I have the honour to participate. I wish to express my heartfelt congratulations to the Polish authorities, the Polish people and all those all across the world, Jewish and other, who have helped make this stunning new museum a reality.
Museums are living platforms of collective memory and identity, and UNESCO believes that they have a crucial social and pedagogical function to play in transmitting shared values to a wider public. This state-of-the-art institution is much more than a reference for the history of Poland -- it celebrates one thousand years of Jewish culture and achievements, providing a vibrant forum for the promotion of intercultural understanding in Poland and abroad.
The Museum of the History of Polish Jews serves also as a watchful reminder of past horrors. The immense majority of Polish Jews were killed in the Holocaust. The perpetrators of this genocide did not only target women and men -- they sought to destroy the identity of an entire people by attempting to obliterate all traces of Jewish life and culture from the memory of humanity. Appropriately situated in the heart of the former Warsaw ghetto, this new Museum will stand as a permanent symbol to future generations of this irremediable loss, as well as a moving embodiment of the resilience of culture as living force for contemporary cultures. Knowledge of the past give us tools to build the defenses of peace and dialogue. I am confident that this museum will inspire young women and men to pursue the struggle against all forms of intolerance today.
This resonates strongly with UNESCO’s mandate, and I am deeply grateful for the creation of this new cultural and learning institution, which will strengthen the global network of actors committed to strengthening our collective memory and efforts towards a culture of peace.