In December 2007 Poland’s prime minister, Donald Tusk, presented the idea of creating a museum that would show Poland’s tragic history in 1939-45 against a broad European background.
On 1 September 2008, Prime Minister Tusk appointed Prof. Dr hab. Paweł Machcewicz to serve as his advisor and plenipotentiary for the Museum of the Second World War in Gdańsk and asked him to prepare a concept paper for the museum. The Museum of the Second World War was created on 26 November 2008 by a directive of Minister of Culture and National Heritage Bogdan Zdrojewski. It would be located in Gdańsk – the city where the war broke out.
"It is not true that historians know all about the Second World War. It is not true that all the questions about that era have been answered. Most people are unaware of historians' ideas... We not only need works of synthesis about the Second World War, we badly need exhibitions, multimedia, ways of expanding knowledge about this cataclysm. And for this reason, this museum project is extremely welcome." Norman Davies
Less than a year after the directive was issued, Prime Minister Tusk signed the museum’s foundation act during a ceremony on Westerplatte Peninsula commemorating the 70th anniversary of the beginning of the Second World War and opened the outdoor exhibition "Westerplatte: A spa – a bastion – a symbol".
The mission of the Museum of the Second World War is to create a modern institution that will present the history of the war as the greatest cataclysm of the 20th century. Despite the fact that over 70 years have passed since the outbreak of the Second World War, no museum in Europe treats its course and nature comprehensively. This makes our initiative timely.
One of our museum’s main goals is to show the wartime experiences of Poland and the other countries of East-Central Europe. These were often different from what the people of Western Europe and of countries outside Europe lived through, and tend to be little known there. This museum will focus on the stories of individuals, societies and nations; military events will serve as mere background to the narrative about the everyday lives of civilians and soldiers, the terror of the occupation and genocide, resistance to the occupying forces, diplomacy and great-power politics. This approach will convey the uniqueness of the Second World War, in which it was the civilian populations that suffered the most.