Warsaw Ghetto museum to show ties with Jews

Poland's government says planned museum devoted to Warsaw Ghetto will convey centuries of close ties between Poles and Jews.

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Ghetto Heroes Monument in Warsaw, Poland
Ghetto Heroes Monument in Warsaw, Poland
Flash 90

Poland's government said on Wednesday that a planned museum devoted to the infamous wartime Warsaw Ghetto, where Nazi Germany imprisoned nearly 500,000 Jews during the Holocaust, would convey the centuries of close ties between Poles and Jews.

"I would like this institution to speak of the mutual love between the two nations that spent 800 years here, on Polish land. Of the solidarity, fraternity, historical truth too, in all its aspects," Culture Minister Piotr Glinski told reporters, according to the AFP news agency.

The museum, which was first announced in November, "is not an institution created ad hoc because of today's heightened Polish-Jewish or Polish-American dialogue," he added.

Relations between Poland and Israel have been strained since January over Warsaw's controversial new Holocaust bill, which sets fines or up to three years in jail for anyone who notably ascribes Nazi German crimes to Poland.

Israel sees the law as a bid to deny that certain Poles participated in the genocide of Jews during World War II, which Poland refutes. The Polish law has also been criticized by the U.S. State Department, the French Foreign Ministry, and certain Jewish organizations.

A high-level Polish government delegation visited Israel last week in a bid to reach agreements over the controversial law, but the sides were unable to agree on a compromise.

This month also marks 50 years since Poland's then communist regime launched a brutal anti-Semitic campaign that prompted at least 12,000 Jews to leave the country. On Tuesday, Polish lawmakers approved a resolution condemning the anti-Semitic purge.

The museum's opening is planned for 2023 to coincide with the 80th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, which was the first large-scale armed rebellion against Hitler's forces during World War II. It ultimately failed.

The museum will be located in a former Jewish hospital that was built at the end of the 19th-century and which stands next to the only remaining fragment of the ghetto wall.

A year after invading Poland, Nazi Germany set up the Warsaw Ghetto in the heart of the occupied Polish capital in October 1940.

Nearly half a million Polish Jews were confined in its quarters, measuring just three square kilometers (1.2 square miles).

The Nazis deported those who did not fall victim to rampant hunger or disease to death camps.

Speaking at the museum press conference, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki highlighted the plight of the ghetto's Jews and of occupied Poland in general.

"Responsibility lies with Germans, with the German nation, but also with those who did not come to help, with the Allies," he said.