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Poland plans museum

June 27, 2007|Vanessa Gera | Associated Press

WARSAW — An empty lawn in the heart of what was once the Warsaw Ghetto will soon become a place not only of mourning, but of celebrating the Jewish life that flourished in Poland before it was destroyed in the Holocaust.

Jewish leaders and President Lech Kaczynski broke ground Tuesday for the Museum of the History of Polish Jews. It sits on a highly charged site -- next to the city's monument to the Jews who resisted the Nazis during the 1943 ghetto uprising, and just down the street from the rail siding where many were deported to their deaths.

The multimedia museum will have exhibits on the Holocaust, but organizers say its primary purpose is to remember the vibrant Jewish community that flourished in Poland for a thousand years despite varying degrees of anti-Semitism.

"This will not be another Holocaust museum," said Marian Turski, one of the originators of the idea for the museum, and president of the Assn. of the Jewish Historical Institute in Poland. "It will be a museum of life."

The building, an austere glass and limestone structure designed by Finnish architects Rainer Mahlamaki and Ilmari Lahdelma, will feature a jagged chasm that cuts through the entire museum, and an interior of undulating forms that alludes to Moses' parting of the Red Sea while fleeing slavery in Egypt -- symbolic of Jewish survival in the face of catastrophe.

Nazi Germany built Auschwitz, Treblinka and the other extermination camps in Poland.

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