As the year slowly ends, I would like to share with you my subjective list of the seven most important things that happened at the Galicia Jewish Museum in 2021. The projects listed below are all part of larger and longer programs, often created in close cooperation with partners from Poland or abroad. The people we’ve met along the way, the new friendships we’ve made, and finally, the impact these projects have had will last for years to come.
Each and every one of these projects was possible only because of you: donors, supporters, partners, friends and staff members. So, in these difficult and uncertain times it gives me great joy and comfort that we can still come together to achieve spectacular things.
And for that, I thank you.
1. Sweet Home Sweet. A Story of Survival, Memory, and Returns
At the Galicia Jewish Museum we search for stories that are yet to be told. And when found, we tell them in a innovative and though-provoking ways.
The Sweet Home Sweet exhibition could have been an exhibition entirely devoted to the story of Richard Ores, a Holocaust survivor from Kraków. His war-time experiences in the ghetto and the Płaszów, Sachsenhausen, Flossenburg, Obertraubling and Dachau camps would provide more than enough material. Alternatively, this exhibition could also have been entirely devoted to the unique collection of photographs Ores buried in 1943. These photographs depict his family and friends and were taken both before the outbreak of the war and in the ghetto. After the war, Richard retrieved them and took them to the USA, where he settled in the 1950s.
Instead, while still describing the Richard Ores’ wartime experiences and presenting over 100 photographs he saved (all original and on public display for the first time), the exhibition looks beyond the story of a single man. Although Richard died in 2011, the second and third generations of his family have continued to be involved with Polish-Jewish life. His daughter is engaged in the Kraków Jewish community and the preservation of Jewish life and heritage in Poland. One of his grandsons has lived in Poland since 2017, where his work has focused on Jewish history and heritage. Many other members of the family have forged their own various relationships to Poland and the Holocaust.
The exhibition therefore is devoted to the three generations of the Ores family and their relationship to Poland, exploring how Holocaust memory and narratives are transmitted from one generation to the next, and how the children and grandchildren of survivors engage with contemporary Poland while still living with the pain and trauma of the Holocaust.
More information about this story can be found here: https://galiciajewishmuseum.org/en/wystawy/sweet-home-sweet-a-story-of-survival-memory-and-returns/
To see the unique collection of photographs saved by Richard, click here: https://photosfromthejar.com
2. Travelling exhibitions program
We understand that not everyone can visit Kraków… That’s why we travel our exhibitions, presenting them both, across Poland and far beyond.
We are extremely proud that, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the story of Rywka Lipszyc and her diary was again made available to American audiences. The Girl in the Diary. Searching for Rywka from the Łódź Ghetto exhibition was opened for the first time here in Kraków in 2017. Since then, it was presented at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York (2019), Milwaukee Jewish Museum (2020), and in August 2021 it arrived at the Holocaust Memorial Center (HMC) in Farmington Hills, Michigan. For us at the Galicia Jewish Museum, one of the most important highlights of the presentation at the HMC was the reaction and feedback from another survivor from Łódź ghetto, Ms. Sophie Klisman. A report from this moving encounter can be found here:
We are thrilled that in 2022 the story of Rywka Lipszyc will continue to reach new audiences, with the exhibition scheduled for presentations at the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum in Buffalo (NY, January-May 2022), the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum (TX, June-December 2022) and the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco (CA, January-May 2023). In 2022, the exhibition will head across the globe to Japan for presentations in Tokyo, Kyoto and Kobe.
In addition to The Girl in the Diary, in 2021 we have travelled five other exhibitions…
One of these, Szancer. Imagine That! was presented both in California (at the Addison-Penzak and Peninsula Jewish Community Centers) as well as in the Museum of Pomeranian Dukes in Szczecin (Poland). The exhibition focuses on the life and work of Jan Marcin Szancer, one of the most important Polish illustrators with Jewish roots, the author of drawings for over 200 books read by generations of Poles.
3. (In)Separable. 2021 Edition
The 2021 was difficult not only because of COVID pandemic. It was also a yet another year when we saw a dramatic increase in the number of antisemitic acts both in Poland and around the world. Some of those events were inspired by hatred, others by fear, ignorance or lack of knowledge. At the Galicia Jewish Museum, we understand that it is also our role to confront those negative processes, counteract stereotypes, and debunk half-truths and fake-news about Jews as well as other groups and minorities.
That’s why in 2019 we introduced the program (In)Separable. Difficult Subjects in Polish-Jewish Relations, bringing together some of the most important Polish authors, scholars, researchers and activists. In 2021, through the series of ten panel discussions we focused on, among other things, the way Jews are presented in Polish culture and media, how politics are changing historical narrations about Polish Righteous Among the Nation, or on fear: fear of otherness, of the past, of responsibility and historical truth.
If you missed any of these programs, they are available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8CwMkh0zhQA&list=PLcz_I4w-h57hhhiQpow0mzZmjRFiAQ4Oo
4. Outreach programs
Almost 50,000 Polish children from over 400 locations across the country participated in two programs devoted to the commemoration of Polish Jews killed in the Holocaust. Through the Crocus Project, organized by the Holocaust Education Trust Ireland and managed in Poland by the Galicia Jewish Museum, students from primary and high schools learn about the Holocaust and commemorate victims, most of all children, by planting Crocus bulbs at their schools, parks and other public spaces. Former neighbours were also commemorated through the Unforgotten project, which marked Yom HaShoah. Local inhabitants: young and old, individuals, families and school groups from over 60 locations submitted short movies documenting a simple act of remembrance, acknowledgment of the void created by the Holocaust.
Please see here for this moving film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gr3zeafSxIQ
5. “Teaching the Holocaust in Context” seminar for teachers
The “Teaching the Holocaust in Context” seminar is no doubt one of our flagships. Since 2010, almost 800 teachers and educators from Poland and the former Soviet Union have taken part in this program, making it one of the largest of its kind in Poland. Unfortunately, the 2020 edition was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s why we were so thrilled and excited to see teachers and educators back at the Museum for the 2021 edition. We were also delighted that this year, for the first time, the program was prepared in a close cooperation with our French partners – Yahad in-Unum.
6. 10 Polish Cities—10 Jewish Stories
One of the projects we are extremely proud of is our latest permanent exhibition 10 Polish Cities—10 Jewish Stories. This exhibition, created in cooperation with Centropa and curated by Ed Serrota, expands and complement existing core-exhibition Traces of Memory. As its curator writes: “This exhibition is not about history. Its about what history did to ten Jewish families in Poland.” The people whose stories are presented at the exhibition came from different towns and different backgrounds; the families represent the variety of Polish-Jewish communities before the Second World War. The world that they knew fell apart in September 1939. Even though they managed to survive – in the ghettos, camps, hidden, as partisans, in the Soviet army, or in exile far away in the East – they lost their families, their homes, and after the war they had to rebuild their world from scratch. Now, their stories are told at the Galicia Jewish Museum. If you want to learn more about these exceptional people, please see here: https://www.10polishcities.centropa.org
7. Traces of Memory Virtual Tour
“The Times They Are a-Changin’…” and one of the thigs that has undoubtedly changed is how visitors access exhibitions. Not only now during the COVID-19 pandemic but even before, we have all witnessed the process of moving galleries, exhibitions and sometimes even entire museums to the online space. While this process sparked many discussions and challenges, it also crated new opportunities and allowed to reach much more diversified audience. We are now excited that since 2021 one can take a fully virtual tour through our main exhibition Traces of Memory, no COVID mask required 😊
If you would like to book a tour, please visit here: https://tickets-online.galiciajewishmuseum.org/en/event/virtual-tour-of-the-exhibition-traces-of-memory-a-contemporary-look-at-the-jewish-past-of-poland-in-the-3d-technique
And to see our recent promotional video of the Traces of Memory exhibition see here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cmJmxjvjoaw
Friends and Supporters
Last but not least… we are most proud and grateful for your ongoing support, help and attention. With the collapse of tourism, and lockdowns and restrictions, we would not be able to achieve any of the things I listed above if not for our sponsors and friends from all over the world. We have been moved and touched by your care and generosity, by the constant reminders that the work of the museum is important. So … as the year slowly ends, please do take a share of joy and pride from some of the things that we have done together.
And let’s hope we shall all meet in Kraków next year!
Please help us to continue our work.
Donations from the US are tax-deductible.
To learn how to make donations please visit https://galiciajewishmuseum.org/en/support-us/