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Director of Polish World War II Museum Forced to Step Down

Pawel Machcewicz, a Polish historian, has been fired as the director of Gdansk’s Second World War Museum, writes Julia Michalska of the Art Newspaper. The museum, which opened on March 23, is considered one of the largest historical museums in the world. Machcewicz’s dismissal comes on the heels of a court ruling that allows the museum to merge with the as-of-yet-unbuilt Westerplatte Museum—an institution focused on the Battle of Westerplatte, an invasion by German forces that marked the beginning of World War II. The merger will allow Poland’s right-wing PiS government to organize a new state-approved cultural institution. The first task for Karol Nawrocki, the newly appointed acting director of the unified museums, will be to assess the institution’s financial standing and employment situation.

The Second World War Museum has bothered members of the PiS government for a long time, as officials claim the museum’s permanent collection is “too universal.” In 2015, Poland’s minister of culture, Piotr Glinski, requested that another museum be made to focus exclusively on the Battle of Westerplatte. Only months later, Glinski ordered that the museums combine, which would allow the government to rid themselves of Machcewicz and change the focus of the exhibits. On April 5, the Polish Supreme Administrative Court allowed for the merger to occur.