Traces of Memory

Permanent exhibitions

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The exhibition features photographs by the late Chris Schwarz and texts by Prof. Jonathan Webber (UNESCO Committee Chair for Jewish and Interdenominational Studies at the University of Birmingham, and Professor at the Institute for European Studies at Jagiellonian University in Kraków). Over a period of twelve years, they worked together to gather material that offers a completely new way of looking at the Jewish past that was destroyed in Poland. The exhibition pieces together a picture of the relics of Jewish life and culture in Polish Galicia that can still be seen today, interpreting these traces in a manner which is informative, accessible, and thought-provoking.

The exhibition is divided into five sections, corresponding to the different ways in which the subject can be approached.

Section 1 is entitled Jewish Life in Ruins,

with all the sadness of confronting the past. These pictures reinforce the stereotype of destruction, but at the same time underline the fact that the stereotype is not just an image, but a reflection of reality: these are real objects in real places that still exist.

Section 2, Jewish Culture as it Once Was,

displays remaining signs of the original culture. From the relics that still exist in the villages and towns of Galicia today, it is also possible to see many indications of the strength and splendour of Jewish culture.

Section 3, Sites of Massacre and Destruction

shows the horror of the Holocaust. The powerful photographs in this section aim to help visitors go beyond the conventional symbols and understand more about what happened, how it happened, and where it happened.

Section 4, How the Past is Being Remembered

recognises the efforts to preserve the traces of memory. What are the implications – for Poles, for Jews, and for European society as a whole – of what it is that is remembered about a great culture destroyed in the Holocaust and what is being forgotten?

Finally, section 5, People Making Memory Today,

shows people involved in recreating the memory of the Jewish past in Poland today.  As a dramatic and up-beat end to the exhibition, it offers hope for the future. To remember the past is to shape the future and give it some sense of direction.

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