Dr hab. Grzegorz Berendt, professor of the University of Gdańsk, in his capacity of the senior deputy director, will be in charge of the research and publishing sections, the library, and the planned film documentation section.
Dr hab. Grzegorz Berendt, professor of the University of Gdańsk (DOB 1964), has been linked to the University’s Institute of History since 1985 and is currently stationed at the Division of Political Thought and Culture. As a historian, he studies the history of the Polish Jews and other population groups of the Gdańsk Pomerania in the 20th century. He is the author of about 90 scientific publications and over 30 titles in the popular science area. His academic output includes three independent monographs and shared authorship of 7 books. He is a long-standing Head of the Public Education Office, Institute of National Remembrance, specialist in the Second World War and the aspects of the civilian suffering in the times of war.
The daughter of Gen. Anders, Senator Anna Maria Anders, currently the secretary of state at the Chancellery of the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister’s plenipotentiary for international dialogue, visited the Museum of the Second World War on Sunday, 23 April. To our deep satisfaction, Ms. Anders declared her willingness to donate a larger number of her father’s memorabilia to the Museum. She also expressed her appreciation of the modern character of the Museum and emphasised it “is executed perfectly”. The meeting bore yet another fruit, namely the plan of arranging the temporary exposition entitled ‘Trail of Hope: The Anders Army’ ["Armia Andersa – Szlak nadziei"] initially presented e.g. at the US Congress.
On 6 April 2017, Minister of Culture and National Heritage Piotr Gliński decided to appoint Karol Nawrocki acting director of the newly-created Museum of the Second World War. The statute of the new museum combines activities of both existing institutions and provides for a branch called the Museum of Westerplatte and the War of 1939.
In the next few days, the acting director will be inducted into the functioning of the whole institution. His first task will be to examine the financial and employment situation.
The Museum of the Second World War in Gdańsk will operate in accordance with the current rules.
Since 2009, Karol Nawrocki has been working in the Gdańsk branch of the Institute of National Remembrance, holding the position of the head of the Regional Public Education Office since 2014. He has written and edited many books as well as scientific and journalistic articles on the latest history of Poland. Being a social activist, well-known in Pomerania, Nawrocki he has been given many awards by veteran and patriot circles. He is also the chairman of the Alliance for the Memory of Accursed Soldiers in Gdańsk. For his social involvement, educational and charity activity, he was voted by the readers of Dziennik Bałtycki the Personality of Gdańsk and Pomerania of 2016.
The Supreme Administrative Court has revoked the decision of the Provincial Administrative Court and dismissed the petition for suspension of the execution of the order issued by the Minister of Culture and National Heritage on the merger between the Museum of the Second World War and the Museum of Westerplatte and the War of 1939.
By the decision dated 5 April 2017, the Polish Supreme Administrative Court has revoked the decision of the Provincial Administrative Court in Warsaw of 30 January 2017 and dismissed the petition for suspension of the execution of the order issued by the Minister of Culture and National Heritage of 6 September 2016 on the merger between the following state cultural institutions: the Museum of the Second World War and the Museum of Westerplatte and the War of 1939 and on the formation of a new state cultural institution: the Museum of the Second World War in Gdańsk.
In its decision addressing the Minister’s complaint against the earlier decision of the Provincial Administrative Court, the Supreme Administrative Court has decided that the case at hand is not subject to the jurisdiction of administrative courts in accordance with art. 5(1) of the Law on Proceedings Before Administrative Courts of 30 August 2002. Therefore, there were no grounds for the Supreme Administrative Court to review the statutory prerequisites of suspending the execution of the contested order and to review the right of the Director of the Museum of the Second World War in Gdańsk to appeal against it. In consideration of the above, having related the subject of the petition for suspension of the order execution to the statutory prerequisites of excluding administrative courts from jurisdiction, the Supreme Administrative Court has revoked the appealed decision of the Provincial Administrative Court in Warsaw and dismissed the petition for suspension of the execution of the order issued by the Minister of Culture and National Heritage.
At 10 o’clock on 23 March 2017, the Museum of the Second World War was opened to the visitors. The ceremony was kept low key. Invited thereto were veterans and donors. The guests included e.g. Prof. Joanna Penson, liaison officer of the Union of Armed Struggle, then prisoner of the Ravensbrück concentration camp, Prof. Jerzy Grzywacz, President of the Pomeranian Chapter of the World Association of Home Army Soldiers, Olga Krzyżanowska, daughter of Aleksander “Wilk” [Wolf] Krzyżanowski – commander of the Home Army in the Vilnius Region, and Andrzej Stachecki whose father was executed in Piaśnica by the Germans and whose memorabilia the son has passed to the Museum.The first hosted guests also included donors to the Museum and school students.
Extending his greetings, the Director, Prof. Paweł Machcewicz, said:
– After eight years’ effort, we are honoured to present our main exhibition to the public. We trust the exhibition will trigger a debate on the Polish history, and give foreigners an insight into the frequently turbulent life stories of the Poles and their history. The goal of the exhibition is to highlight the unique features of the Polish history by weaving it into the canvas of the international context. This is the largest historical museum in Poland and one of the largest in the world. The aim the exhibition attempts to achieve is to paint the broadest possible picture of the war without limiting itself to the military aspects, and therefore we give an overview politics, ideology, and war seen through the eyes of common civilians. The exhibition pays tribute to the slaughtered. It is the effect of contributions from thousands of private individuals who donated their memorabilia of the times of war. This Museum is built of family stories.
– This opening, though low-key, carries an air of solemnity to us. The first steps inside will be reserved to those for whom and thanks to whom the museum has been built: prisoners of concentration camps, the deported, veterans, and donors. We have young people with us too, and museums build historic awareness – Prof. Machcewicz said.
The first visitor around the exhibition, accompanied by the Museum director, was Prof. Jaonna Penson. The museum ticket offices launched the sale of tickets on the same day. One can also book a ticket on line from the Museum website.
Its permanent exhibition covering almost 5,000 square meters, the Museum of the Second World War in Gdańsk is the largest historical museum in Poland. Located on the bottom level of the building, 14 meters underground, it talks about the tragic experience of the Second World War, its genesis and consequences, its victims and perpetrators, its heroes and the common folk.
The Museum of the Second World War was intended as an institution which would present the Second World War by combining the Polish perspective with the experience of other European nations. Designed by the 'Kwadrat’ Architectural Studio from Gdynia, the museum building is located on Władysława Bartoszewskiego Square, on the River Motława, close to the historic center of the city.
The permanent exhibition consists of three narrative blocks: “The Road to War,” “The Horrors of War,” and “The War’s Long Shadow.” It is divided into 18 thematic sections, which is reflected in the layout of the exhibition rooms. The exhibition contains approx. 2,000 exhibits, and there are also as many as ca. 240 modern multimedia consoles, which enable the visitors to browse through archival photographs and footages, watch video testimonies of the witnesses of those events, and study interactive maps of battles or of the shifting national borders during the Second World War. It was designed by the Belgian Tempora studio, whereas the Cracow Nolabel studio is responsible for its multimedia section. A tender for making the permanent exhibition was won by Qumak S.A.
One section of the permanent exhibition presents the everyday life during the Second World War and there is also an exhibition for children below the age of twelve, titled “Time travel.” It contains three rooms which are reconstructions of an apartment of a Warsaw family during three different periods: several days after the outbreak of the Second World War, during the German occupation, and immediately after the war. The changing elements of the interior design reflect the changing political and social situation in the occupied and fighting country.
Museum of the Second World War in Gdańsk Władysława Bartoszewskiego Square 1; 80-862 Gdańsk Main entrance: stairs from the square Opening hours: Tuesday–Sunday 10 a.m.–7 p.m. Las admission to the permanent exhibition at 5 p.m.
On 30 January 2017, the ProvincialAdministrative Court reconsidered the petition for staying enforcement of the contested museum merger order.
The Provincial Administrative Court in Warsaw reconsidered the petition for staying enforcement of the contested disposition, filed by the Museum of the Second World War, Director of the Second World War Museum in Gdańsk, and the Ombudsman. In the decision of 30 January 2017, the Court suspended enforcement of the contested disposition of the Minister of Culture and National Heritage to merge the following state institutions of culture: the Second World War Museum in Gdańsk, and the Museum of Westerplatte and the War of 1939 and to form a new state institution of culture: the Museum of the Second World War in Gdańsk until the time the matter would be validly resolved.
The Court decision is not yet valid and final. The parties to the proceedings can file their complaints against it with the Supreme Administrative Court within 7 days following the day the decision and the reasons thereof are served.
In its reasons for granting the petition to stay the enforcement, the Court noted that the contestants demonstrated plausibility that the effects of the disposition issued might be hardly reversible. The Court noted further that even though the merger of the two institutions of culture would result in the employees of the fusing establishments becoming the employees of the Museum and retaining their rights under their contracts of employment, the involved organisational changes (employment relationships included) required suspension of the contested disposition.
The Court also weighed the position of the participant to the proceedings, where the participant declared it was considering the option of cancelling the donation agreement under which the Municipality of Gdańsk had donated onto the Second World War Museum the land intended to serve the public goal of ‘construction and operation of the Second World War Museum, a site commemorating the tragic face of war and its victims’, the fact pointed out by the Ombudsman.
On 28-29 January 2017, the Museum arranged Open Days to enable the residents of the Tri-City and other Polish cities to visit the exhibition and the building itself. Over the two days, the main exhibition had 3.5 thousand visitors.
Alongside the main exhibition, the visitors saw ‘A Travel in Time’, i.e. the exhibition dedicated to children under 12, made up of three separate rooms which recreate the flat of a Warsaw family at three different points in the time of war, and watched film reports on the Museum operations and the construction project, presented in the cinema hall.
Museum of the Second World War in Gdańsk informs that on 24 January 2017, the Supreme Administrative Court issued the decision that revokes the ruling of the Provincial Administrative Court in Warsaw of 16 November 2016, which suspended the execution of the ordinance of the Minister Of Culture and National Heritage regarding the merger of the state cultural institutions of the Museum of the Second World War in Gdańsk and the Museum of Westerplatte and the War of 1939 and the establishment of a new public cultural institution — the Museum of the Second World War in Gdańsk.
In the substantiation, the Court made no reference to the merits of the suspension of the execution of the ordinance of the Minister of Culture and National Heritage, but it did point out the formal infringements that the Provincial Administrative Court made in considering the motion in the lawsuit in the first instance.
Therefore this means that the said ordinance remains in force.
Furthermore, the Court stated that "one should emphasise that the current stage of the proceedings the administrative courts dealt only with the issue of suspending the execution of the decision of the Minister of Culture and National Heritage, but not with complaints regarding the decision", which means that the issue of legality of the decision of the Minister of Culture and National Heritage has not been considered by the Supreme Administrative Court.
After the guests’ visit to the main exhibition, there were two discussion panels held. Museologists from Poland and abroad participated in the first panel:
Prof. Barbara Kirshenblatt (POLIN) – facilitator Sara J. Bloomfield (Holocaust Museum in Washington) Prof. Julija Kantor (Hermitage) Prof. Machcewicz (Museum of the Second World War) Prof. Stefan Troebst (University of Leipzig)
Prof. Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, who used to hold such positions as the programme director of the main exhibition of the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, stressed the exceptional nature of the Museum of the Second World War exhibition, since it e.g. ‘presents the history of the Second World War told in Poland, and Poland is in the focal point of the history’, and yet the narration unwinding here ‘is that of supranational history’.
‘This international perspective creates a phenomenal chance of approaching and discussing the war as a global conflict’ – Ms Kirshenblatt-Gimblett emphasised.
The speaker perceived the exhibition as demonstrating a unique feature: it pays tribute to heroism and sacrifice whilst not glorifying the war. ‘This very fact is, in itself, exceptional’ – she said explaining that museums devoted to world conflicts typically tell the stories of the military events and in a sense hail and glorify them.
The Museum director, Prof. Paweł Machcewicz, highlighted the fact that the intention in creating the museum was to paint a possibly comprehensive picture of the Second World War whilst giving special priority to the Polish experience. ‘If the history of Poland is to be understood worldwide, we should weave it into the broader European canvas’ – he said.
‘We took care to intertwine the Polish story with the stories of other countries’ – Prof. Machcewicz said and added that the focus could be exemplified by the presentation of the resistance in the times of the Second World War.
From day one of their work, the creators of the exhibition put the experience of civilians in the focal point. ‘There are many military museums, and we do not wish to compete with them. We did aim at accumulating an interesting collection of military exhibits, but they alone are unable to convey the most vital message, that the civilians were the main victim of the war, the fact which makes the war distinct from all earlier ones’ – Prof. Machcewicz said.
Prof. Julia Kantor representing the Hermitage, Sankt Petersburg, shared her appreciation of the excellent balance the exhibition strikes between the exhibits and multimedia. ‘The Katyń room is a true masterpiece. The exhibition there is absolutely exquisite. It is meticulous, very sharp, and very objective’ – Prof. Kantor said.
Prof. Stefan Troebst, historian from Germany, reflected that in their exhibitions portraying the global conflict German museums adopted an approach diametrically different from the one taken by the MSWW. ‘German museums are totally bleached of any emotion when touching on such topics as the holocaust, occupational terror, mass executions, or other terrifying events’ – Prof. Troebst said and continued to explain that German exhibitions typically limited themselves to presenting documents, black-and-white photographs, and the like.
‘As for the German visitors, and I hope they will be numerous, (…), the Gdańsk museum will fill in a huge blank space in the German perception of the Second World War’ – Prof. Troebst said and reflected that the Germans were aware that the war had broken out in 1939, but few knew what happened in between 1939 and June of 1941.