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Father Maksymilian Kolbe and the Ulma family will appear in the permanent exhibition at the Museum of the Second World War.

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The Museum of the Second World War in Gdańsk wanted to change the main exhibition, which would involve removing the portrait of Kolbe's father and the photo of the Ulma family. There were protests against the changes. On Saturday, the museum announced that “Father Maksymilian Kolbe and the Ulma family will be included in the permanent exhibition.” “A decisive attitude brings results!” – wrote Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz, deputy minister and head of the Ministry of National Defence.

The museum management, which has been managed by Prof. Rafał Wnuk since April, announced on Tuesday the planned and implemented changes in the main exhibition, which is to return to its state from 2017. This included removing the portrait of Father Maksymilian Kolbe from the exhibition, as well as a large-format photograph of the Ulma family. The decision was criticized by, among others, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister of National Defense, the President of the PSL Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz and PiS MPsOn Friday, protests against the changes took place in Gdańsk and Warsaw. Several dozen people took part.

In Saturday's announcement, published on the website of the Museum of the Second World War, it was emphasized that the museum was created to “connect Poles, Europeans and inhabitants of all continents.”

Read also: The Museum of the Second World War in Gdańsk is changing its main exhibition. Storm on the Internet

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Museum of the Second World War in GdańskPatryk Kosmider / Shutterstock

Father Kolbe and the Ulma family “among other heroes” of the museum

“It (the museum – ed.) shows the tragic and complicated history of Poland during World War II – against the background of the history of the entire globe. It is moving not only for us, Poles, but also for guests from abroad. The narrative, which we presented to you for the first time in 2017, was woven from hundreds of human fates and stories about the fight against evil. The heroes of most of them are people who are poorly known, or even completely unknown. Because the victims of World War II were millions of ordinary people, we wanted to emphasize the tragedy, brutality and death that befell them,” we read.

It was noted that “the exhibition also includes a place for such well-known figures as: Elżbieta Zawacka “Zo”, Jan Piwnik “Ponury” and Witold Pilecki”. “Yes! Witold Pilecki was and still is in the Museum of the Second World War. It is not true that he was removed from the museum” – it was emphasized.

Kosiniak-Kamysz on the change of the main exhibition at the Museum of the Second World War in GdańskTVN24

As assessed, it is understandable that “the changes introduced may raise surprise and concern among citizens.” “We have decided that Father Maksymilian Kolbe and the Ulma family will be included in the permanent exhibition. We see that there is a genuine social need for this,” we read.

“Soon, the stories of Father Maksymilian Kolbe and the Ulma family will be among other heroes visible in the museum. They will be presented in a dignified, reliable and consistent with the latest research. We will not repeat the inaccuracies and errors that appeared on the photo wallpaper of the Ulma family that we removed or in displays dedicated to Father Kolbe,” it was written.

The announcement also stated that “the team that will prepare a scenario of changes, consistent with current historical knowledge and consistent with the message of the entire exhibition, will include scientists from other museum centers, in addition to employees of the Second World War.” “The evolution of the exhibition will respect the basic principle of creative autonomy and independence of scientific research. We are convinced that these changes will allow the Museum of the Second World War to be re-created as a place of meetings and dialogue for all Poles,” it concluded.

Kosiniak-Kamysz: a decisive attitude brings results

Kosiniak-Kamysz commented on this information on his profile on the X portal. “A decisive attitude brings results! According to the announcement of the Museum of World War II, Fr. Maksymilian Kolbe and the Ulma family will be included in the permanent exhibition again. PSL will always defend national heroes and take care of historical truth,” wrote the deputy prime minister.

The dispute over the main exhibition at the Museum of the Second World War has been ongoing since 2017, when the museum was opened and was built and prepared by a team led by Prof. Paweł Machcewicz. Two weeks after the museum opened, he was replaced in the position by Dr. Karol Nawrockiwho was previously the head of the Branch Office of Public Education Institute of National Remembrance in Gdańsk (he is the president of the Institute of National Remembrance). The new management changed the main exhibition, whose authors were Machcewicz, Janusz Marszalec (current deputy director of the Museum of the Second World War), Piotr M. Majewski and Rafał Wnuk (current acting director of the Museum of the Second World War). They did not agree with the changes, treating them “as political interference in the ideological message of the exhibition and a violation of copyright”.

In April 2024, the museum's management was taken over by two authors of the script – Wnuk and Marszalec. According to the current authorities and the creators of the original main exhibition, the actions of director Nawrocki “distorted the meaning of the story created by the authors”.

Changes at the Museum of the Second World War

In Tuesday's announcement, the Museum of the Second World War announced a return “to the original vision of the authors of the “Concentration Camp System” and “Road to Auschwitz” sections of the exhibition entitled “The Horror of War”. As stated, the former “for good reason did not include pre-war photographs of prisoners or stories of well-known people”. “However, it did show such elements of everyday life as the camp regime, hunger, medical experiments, resistance, free time, etc. The introduction of a display case dedicated exclusively to Roman Catholic clergy and the hanging of portraits of Fr. Kolbe and Capt. Pilecki in the central points of this space disrupted the anthropological nature of the narrative” – ​​it was emphasized.

As noted, similarly, placing a large-format photograph of the Ulma family in the “Road to Auschwitz” section, which talks about the deaths of prisoners in mass extermination camps, “disrupted the artistic composition.”

Main photo source: Patryk Kosmider / Shutterstock



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