The cornerstone of the long-awaited Museum of the History of Polish Jews, a major step towards reviving Poland's Jewish heritage after the Holocaust, was laid in Warsaw Tuesday.
"Prior to the Holocaust, the Shoah, Warsaw was one of the world's main centers of Jewish life where politics, culture, publishing and Jewish theatre thrived -- in fact it was the leading centre, surpassing other cities in the US and Europe," project director Jerzy Halbersztadt told guests at the site.
During the Holocaust, the district was inside the infamous Warsaw Ghetto, where the Nazis imprisoned more than 400,000 Polish Jews, many of whom died of starvation or disease or were sent to death camps.
The bricks used as the cornerstones came from the World War II-era foundations of the last headquarters of the Council of Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto, the scene of a famous wartime uprising, Halbersztadt said.
Led by the Jewish Fighting Organisation (ZOB), the doomed World War II rebellion was among the first armed insurgency by partisans against the Nazis in all of occupied Europe. The museum will face the imposing monument dedicated to those who died in the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
Designed by Finnish architects Rainer Mahlamaeki and Ilmari Lahdelma, the facade of the future museum will be symbolically ruptured, opening onto undulating walls in an allusion to the Biblical parting of the Red Sea. The museum's virtual arm -- the "Virtual Shtetl" web portal was launched in June -- is aimed at giving it a head start online before its doors open.
Prior to World War II, Poland was home to some 3.5 million Jews, roughly 10 percent of it's pre-war population with nearly a millennium of Jewish settlement within its borders. Some three million Polish Jews perished in the Holocaust which claimed six million of pre-WWII Europe's estimated 11 million Jews.(EJP)
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