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12.04.2017 Holidays in 2017 when the Museum of the Second World War is closed

The Museum of the Second World War is closed on:

15th-17th April - Easter

1st May - Labour Day

15th June - Corpus Christi Day

1st November - All Saints’ Day

24th December - Christmas Eve

25th-26th December - Christmas

31st - New Year's Eve

06.04.2017 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

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.

05.04.2017 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 museums.

The building of the Museum of the Second World War. Photo: Roman Jocher

The building of the Museum of the Second World War. Photo: Roman Jocher

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.

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23.03.2017 Opening of the Museum of the Second World War - 23 March 2017

From the left: Andrzej Stachecki, prof. Jerzy Grzywacz, director prof. Paweł Machcewicz, prof. Joanna Penson and Olga Krzyżanowska. Fot. Roman Jocher

From the left: Andrzej Stachecki, prof. Jerzy Grzywacz, director prof. Paweł Machcewicz, prof. Joanna Penson and Olga Krzyżanowska. Fot. Roman Jocher

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. 


31.01.2017 On 30 January 2017, the Provincial Administrative Court reconsidered the petition for staying enforcement of the contested museum merger order

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.

28.01.2017 Open Days of the Museum of the Second World War

The visitors during the Open Days. Photo: Roman Jocher

The visitors during the Open Days. Photo: Roman Jocher

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.

More photos in gallery.

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.

24.01.2017 On 24 January 2017, the Supreme Administrative Court issued the decision that revokes the ruling of the Provincial Administrative Court in Warsaw

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.

Link to the Court's communiqué: (only Polish)

http://www.nsa.gov.pl/komunikaty/postanowienie-nsa-w-sprawie-wstrzymania-wykonania-zarzadzenia-ministra-kultury-dotyczacego-polaczenia-muzeum-ii-wojny-swiatowej-w-gdansku-i-muzeum-westerplatte-i-wojny-1939,news,4,388.php

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.

23.01.2017 Discussion panels after the presentation of the permanent exhibition of the musuem

Participants of the discussion panel. Photo: Roman Jocher

Participants of the discussion panel. Photo: Roman Jocher

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.

23.01.2017 Presentation of the permanent exhibition of the Museum of the Second World War

Photo: Roman Jocher

Photo: Roman Jocher

On 23 January 2017, the permanent exhibition of the Second World War Museum hosted the first visitors, namely the individuals who contributed to its creation: architects, designers, museum people, historians, donors, representatives of the combatant community, and journalists – four hundred people in total.

More photos in gallery.

Prof. Paweł Machcewicz, Director of the establishment, greeted the guests and gave an overview of the past eight years of works on the main exhibition and the construction of the Museum building.  He thanked private persons, institutions, and businesses for their support and contribution to the project of setting up the institution.  He also gave a brief expose on the mission of the museum and the message the main exhibition conveys:

 - Our exhibition aims at building a reasonably comprehensive picture of the Second World War as a conflict of political, ideological, and military nature; moreover (…) our desire is to put the history as experienced by Poland and our corner of Europe in the pan-European and global context.  We want our experience of historic events to come to the fore among the predominant story lines of the Second World War, and – in a broader sense – the history of the 20. century.

Prof. Paweł Machcewicz stressed that the prime message of the exhibition was seeing the conflict from the perspective of ordinary people:

- We do, of course, tell the story of the military campaigns, the soldiers’ daily lives, we have accumulated numerous specimens of unique military gear; still, what we aim primarily at is to unveil the events seen through the eyes of civilians, because unlike all previous conflicts, that war took its gravest toll among the common people, women, and children alike.  Our intention is to put them back in the very centre of our attention.

The goal has been attained through unique exhibits, their stories, and the memories shared by survivors of the war.

- We put emphasis on authentic artefacts, not on the multimedia – Prof. Machcewicz added – We have a collection of memorabilia and authentic objects which we owe to private donors.  This museum would not have come into being without the donors.

Dr hab. Piotr Majewski, Museum Deputy Director, who coordinated the various lines of works on the museum, also took the floor.

- The exhibition occupying 5 thousand square metres combines 400 cabinets with more than 2.5 thousand exhibits on display, and 250 multimedia terminals presenting about 1 thousand pages of texts and 4 hours of film materials.

Deputy Director dr Janusz Marszalec spoke of the Museum building:

- ‘Gdańsk has a new shrine’ – this is the opinion I have already heard three times now, and the opinion is absolutely on the spot.  Naturally, it is not going to be a sanctuary of any cult, or the pulpit from which we would like to preach the only and revealed truth.  The site is meant to be a place of reflection where dwellers of Gdańsk, Poland, and the world will get a sense of the unimaginable drama of war’.

Then, the guests entered the main exhibition space and were left to explore it on their own.  Museum employees stationed in individual rooms provided information and explanation on the presented topics and exhibits on display.

21.12.2016 The Minister of Culture and National Heritage refuses to comply with the Provincial Administrative Court’s decision suspending the merger of the museums

With its decision of 16 November 2016 regarding case No. VII SA/Wa 2411/16 the Provincial Administrative Court in Warsaw suspended the execution of the ordinance of the Minister of Culture and National Heritage issued on 6 September 2016 regarding the merger of the public 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.

One should bear in mind that in the substantiation of the above decision the Court stated that the execution of the Minister’s ordinance would result in the existing Museum of the Second World War’s loss of its legal existence, which is undoubtedly a very harmful consequence and one that is difficult to reverse, and that the merger (including the necessary preparatory steps, such as, stocktaking, and with the unfinished construction works) would generate unjustified construction stoppages and unnecessary large costs.

Nonetheless, the Minister’s attorney, Zbigniew Wawer, informed the Museum Director that despite the above decision of the Provincial Administrative Court and the consequences described by the Museum and the Court which would be caused by the Minister’s decision regarding the merger, the Ministry of Culture and National heritage did not feel bound by the Court’s decision as it had not become legally valid yet. The same position was presented on behalf of the Minister by the deputy director of the Department of Cultural Heritage of the Ministry of Culture and Cultural Heritage, Piotr Szpanowski, during the session of the Board of Trustees on 16 December 2016. Thus the Ministry expressed its intention to proceed as if there was no decision of the Court and to continue the process of the merger of the cultural institutions.

It should be stated that such an argumentation violates the idea of temporary protection provided for with the Act — Law on Proceedings before Administrative Courts, which is to prevent negative consequences of executing an ordinance before examining an appeal against it. This also finds confirmation in judicial decisions. For example, let us quote a fragment of the substantiation of the decision of the Provincial Administrative Court in Gdańsk of 20 April 2016 (I SA/Gd 225/16), where the Court strongly emphasizes that "[t]he essence of the decision to suspend the execution of the appealed decision is to extend temporary protection to the appealing party, which consists in preventing the execution of the decision until the decision of the court of the first instance, for its execution could harm the appealing party or result in consequences which would be difficult to reverse. The conclusion that a decision regarding suspension of the execution of the appealed ordinance becomes applicable only after it becomes legally valid could lead to a situation where the appealed decision would be executed even before the examination of the complaint, which in the Court’s opinion totally thwarts the essence of temporary protection provided as per article 61 § 3 p. p. s. a.”

In the light of the above, the Museum regards the steps taken by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage to be an act of violation of the November decision of the Provincial Administrative Court in Warsaw, one that is has no grounds in law, and harmful both to the Museum and to the State reasury.

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