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The Museum of the Second World War in Gdansk, Poland.

In Open Letter, Academics Denounce Polish Museum for Being a “Propaganda Institution”

The Museum of the Second World War in Gdansk, Poland, which opened almost a year ago under the auspices of the country’s right-wing Prawo i Sprawiedliwość (Law and Justice) party, or PiS, has taken down a film about the traumas of war, writes Julia Michalska of the Art Newspaper. In an open letter to the museum, five hundred Polish and international academics have condemned the action, saying that the museum is being turned into a “propaganda institution” for the PiS, which was elected into government two years ago (the party is keen on making sure the museum represents a “Polish point of view”). The removal of the film comes in the wake of a November rally in Warsaw that brought together sixty thousand people demanding a “white Europe.”

Plans for the museum started in 2008, when Poland was more politically centrist. The PiS, however, was always perturbed by the museum’s “universal approach.” The party managed to gain control of the institution after it merged with the Westerplatte Museum, allowing it to replace the Second World War Museum’s original director, Pawel Machcewicz, with Karol Nawrocki, an appointee of the newer government. Among other things slated to be changed in the museum’s exhibits under Nawrocki are a greater focus on the role Catholic priests played during the war and how Polish citizens rescued Jews. War casualty statistics will also be changed so that the percentage of the Polish population affected, instead of the total number, will be shown.

“There are many different reasons for the exhibition to be gradually but permanently changed,” said a museum spokesman. “Some things need to be rearranged, which happens at all museums in the world. But it is also a Polish museum financed by Polish taxpayers. Polish people simply want the museum they have financed to tell their story, to refer to the Polish point of view. The museum is located in Poland and must answer to those who financed it.”

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