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“No more is now.” 20 years of activity of the Galicia Jewish Museum

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The Galicia Jewish Museum has become a permanent part of the Polish-Jewish landscape of Krakow. It has been showing the past for 20 years, not allowing us to forget about its difficult history. Exhibitions, workshops, but also meetings with witnesses are a lesson in tolerance for young people. By caring for the past, the museum wants to shape the future so that – as its employees say – history will never repeat itself.

– We must be constantly vigilant about signals of hate, hate speech, the use of symbols and stereotypes. We need to make people, especially young people, more sensitive to the fact that sometimes seemingly innocent words, insults thrown casually, can turn into something very, very serious and dangerous – points out Dr. Edyta Gawron from the Galicia Jewish Heritage Institute and at the same time adds that it is the Holocaust is proof of this.

Jacek Stawski, director of the Galicia Jewish Museum, in turn, points out how important memory is, but not in relation to the past or historical dates, but to what is happening today politically and socially. – This is a great lesson for us, so that such a disaster will never happen again. This is a great warning. The entire landscape of Poland until 1943 was marked by the Jewish presence. Not today, there are only traces of it – notes Stawski.

Photographer Chris Schwartz undertook the task of documenting the preserved traces of Jewish heritage in Poland. Through his photos, he showed how much the world changed after 1939. – Chris's photos show that there is a need to educate both Poles and Jews to get rid of prejudices and stereotypes, of which there are many – explains Professor Jonathan Webber, co-founder of the Galicia Jewish Museum.

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The culmination of the photographic documentation was the exhibition “In the Footsteps of Memory”, which was first presented in 2004 at the Galicia Jewish Museum. – Establishing the museum was Chris's idea. I showed him places to go to take photos. Over the course of several years, he took a thousand photos. He worked very hard. I had the idea to publish a book. Chris had another idea. He wanted to create a museum. It was a good decision, Webber recalls.

– If we do not understand what a warning today's absence is, which is so eloquent, we will not understand anything about today's challenges of tolerating diversity. Today, hatred and calls for the destruction of other nations are commonplace around us, says Stawski.

Halina Litman Yasharoff Peabody is a volunteer at the Holocaust Museum in Washington TVN24

Testimonies in the form of exhibitions

“Ten Polish Cities – Ten Jewish Stories” is a story about the tragedies of people who managed to survive, but who lost literally everything. – About only ten percent of the pre-war Jewish community survived the Holocaust. The story of Teofila Silberring is very moving. She returned home at the beginning of the war in 1939 and was told that her mother had been shot, says Dr. Edyta Gawron.

It is estimated that up to six million Jews died during the Holocaust. About two million were children. – On the one hand, we have some records that the sight of a small child moved many German soldiers because they left their small children at home, but these are, unfortunately, quite rare images and memories. Children were among the easier victims because they were defenseless. It's hard to talk about a reduced tariff here, Gawron points out.

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The museum has also prepared the HerStories exhibition, which shows the fate of women and the difficult choices they faced. – Motherhood among Jewish women was considered dangerous. In fact, in each of these stories we see strength, we see this ability to survive. In these seven stories we see the ability to rebuild one's life after such a tragedy, after such a catastrophe – explains Anna Wencel, an educator at the Galicia Jewish Museum.

“HerStories: The Fates of European Jewish Women in the 20th Century” exhibitionTVN24

Dr. Edyta Gawron points out that this exhibition is special because Jews did not always want to tell their memories. – It was too painful, too dramatic. There was also a tendency to start life anew, to cut off what was in the past. But, unfortunately, it comes back. As they age, they feel an obligation to say it, that it cannot be forgotten, that it should not be forgotten, that they realize that they are often the only living witnesses – he emphasizes.

– There is a desire or temptation in many people to forget. This is a story that we are ashamed of, that we do not want to talk about, but when we take it seriously and with great criticism towards ourselves and others, then this story and this moment become familiar – adds Dr. Katarzyna Szuszkiewicz, head of the Education Department of the Jewish Museum Galicia.

The director of the Galicia Jewish Museum explains that the forms of reference to Jewish heritage in the form of exhibitions are intended to leave some reflection among viewers. – Our reference to Jewish heritage is a warning: never again. Never again is now. Older youth still meet living witnesses of the Holocaust. This is a unique experience and young people, both Polish and European, Israeli and American, always leave moved and we believe that this warning and reflection remains that this cannot happen again – notes Stawski.

Author:Stefania Kulik

Main photo source: TVN24

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