Jewish leader in Poland defends bid to replace head of country’s main Jewish museum


(JTA) — To many Polish Jews, the museum that opened in 2013 on the grounds of the former Warsaw ghetto is a symbol of communal revival in a country that had more Holocaust victims than any other.

That’s why some of them are vociferously opposing the right-wing government’s decision this month not to automatically renew the five-year contract of the Polin Museum’s first director, Dariusz Stola.

Critics of the move — including 4,600 who have signed a petition denouncing it — say it is politically motivated payback for Stola’s opposition to nationalist policies — a claim denied by the Culture Ministry.

On Thursday, the main group representing Polish Jews came out in support of the search for a successor, effectively siding with the government.

“We hope that the best candidate will be identified,” the chairwoman-elect of the Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland, Monika Krawczyk, wrote Thursday in an email to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Her group, which in 2017 accused the government of emboldening right-wing extremists, is “glad” about the decision to interview candidates, Krawczyk added. She called it “an opportunity to run democratic process for the appointment of the POLIN director (which was not done in the past).”

Krawczyk’s organization and the Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews have had a legal dispute about copyright amid accusations that the museum was overshadowing the activities of communities in presenting historical events to visitors.

“Many very competent (young and older) people, including members of Jewish Community in Poland, will have opportunity to present their vision for this crucial institution in Polish-Jewish relations,” she said.

Stola has criticized recent legislation making it illegal to blame the Polish nation for Nazi crimes. Krawczyk’s group has condemned the legislation as harmful to research about the Holocaust, in line with similar criticism leveled at the government-sponsored law by Israel, the United States, the World Jewish Congress and many other Jewish groups that said it would limit the debate about the complicity of some Poles.

Jarosław Sellin, the secretary of state at the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, denied any political biases in the decision to interview potential successors for Stola, adding that Stola may reapply.

Stola did not respond to a request for comment.

Recommended from JTA