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The Square of Polish Innocence: POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw and its symbolic topography

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The text refers to the space around the Nathan Rapoport’s Monument to the Fighters and Martyrs of the Ghetto and the Museum of the History of Polish Jews POLIN in Warsaw (Poland). The site of death – at the heart of the former Warsaw Ghetto – has now become a site overloaded with other symbolic messages. Two main symbolic centers (the 1948 Monument and the 2013 Museum) are today encircled by ten other, additional memorials. The message emerging from the content as well as the proportion of commemorations is that Polish solidarity with the Jews was a fact and it stood the test of terror and death brought by the Germans. Although it does not undermine the veracity of the few and isolated exceptions, such a version of events is drastically different from the actual facts. Both symbolic centers are perceived as emblems of Jewish minority narrative. Additional artefacts are a message formulated by the Polish majority. They constitute a kind of symbolic encirclement, block. Emphasizing the dominant majority’s version of the events in this place is in fact a symbolic pre-emptive action. It is meant to silence the unwanted narrative or suppress even the mere possibility that it might emerge. What turns out to be at stake in the dominant Polish narrative about the Holocaust and Polish-Jewish relations is the image of Poland and the Poles. This shows not only the topographic and symbolic situation but also the socio-cultural context of the functioning of the new Museum.

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Volume/Issue

45(2-3)

Page Number

200-214

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Link to article (paywalled), The Square of Polish Innocence: POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw and its symbolic topography

Bibliographic Information

Janicka, Elżbieta The Square of Polish Innocence: POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw and its symbolic topography. East European Jewish Affairs. 2015: 200-214.  http://archive.jpr.org.uk/10.1080/13501674.2015.1059246