Statement of the Director of POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews

Zygmunt Stępiński, dyrektor Muzeum POLIN na lata 2020-2023
fot. M. Jaźwiecki / Muzeum Historii Żydów Polskich

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Friends of POLIN Museum,

Over the past year POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews has been going through the worst crisis since its inception. The crisis was caused by the conflict between the Museum co-founders regarding nomination for the post of director. As you all know, a competition for the post was held in May 2019. It was won convincingly by Professor Dariusz Stola - my mentor, my superior, and a dear colleague.

It would be inappropriate to comment here on the process of nominating or rather on the failure to nominate Professor Dariusz Stola for a new term as POLIN Museum Director. I myself was put in a rather difficult position, serving as Acting Director. I was striving to fulfil my role to the best of my abilities, yet with full awareness of its interim nature - POLIN Museum was moulded by Professor Stola who was about to return and occupy again his empty office in the Museum building.

Alas, that never happened. According to the common intention of the Association of the Jewish Historical Institute and the City of Warsaw, and with the approval of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, I received the nomination for a 3-year term as POLIN Museum Director. I have decided to accept it. I am sure you are all aware how awkward the position I was put in has been, notwithstanding the fact that my candidature was supported by all three Museum co-founders, many different milieus and authority figures, including those that the Museum holds in the highest regard - first and foremost the Donors, but also the Nationwide Workers’ Initiative Trade Union in operation at the Museum, as well as the POLIN Museum staff council.

Above all else, my nomination was supported by Professor Dariusz Stola.

Darek, I would like to address these words to you directly. They say no one is irreplaceable. Perhaps it is true. What is also true, however, is that there are people among us who are truly unique and extraordinarily clever; people who change the course of events and thus shape our history. We have had a great honor and privilege to work with such a person. POLIN Museum is one of the most important institutions of culture in Poland and it will follow the course that you have mapped out for us. I am sure that our paths will cross along this course, and more than once at that.

Today I have entered the building as the Museum Director, overwhelmed by most ambivalent feelings. Nonetheless, I wish to pass on this message to you all: I will make every effort to further develop the potential of POLIN Museum - the institution which Professor Stola held dear and where he left a piece of his heart. The Museum will continue to fulfil its mission of preserving the memory of Polish Jews, of retelling their history in an engaging, captivating and authentic way. It will continue to teach about the tradition, culture, religion and patriotism of the Jews who have always been and will always remain an inseparable part of multinational and multiethnic Republic of Poland - the home of people of various denominations, viewpoints, traditions and customs.

Zygmunt Stępiński

Director of POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews