Jewish Cultural Heritage

Developing the oral history collection at POLIN Museum

Activities aimed at documenting the lives of Polish Jews and social history from the individual perspective of witnesses to history and activists in the field of Jewish heritage are being carried out as part of the bilateral program of HL-Senteret and POLIN Museum in the years 2020-2024. New interviews will supplement the POLIN oral history collection which already boasts over 1,000 interviews.

Narrative interviews are conducted within three thematic areas which enable us to present a broad range of historical and cultural contexts, individual experiences as well as complex identities in both individual and collective context.

  • Jewish communities and institutions: their role and significance today

    We document biographical experiences, worldviews and activities of the representatives of Jewish institutions and local activists engaged in the preservation and promotion of Jewish heritage in Poland (e.g. laureates of the POLIN Award).

  • The significance of Holocaust commemoration in Poland and in Norway

    We study the memory of the Polish Jews by documenting the life stories of witnesses to history and the impact of experiencing the Holocaust on worldview, life and identity of their descendants. We also document practices related to the Holocaust commemoration in both public and private spheres, with the process of inter-generational transmission and the attitude towards memorial sites dedicated to the Holocaust.

  • To be a Jew in a multicultural society

    We document diverse, dynamic aspects of individual and collective identity of Polish Jews in both local and transnational context where identity is defined mainly through one’s attitude towards the past (family history, memory, tradition), through relation towards the so-called meaningful others (persons who have had a vital impact on one’s life choices and identity choices) and through participation in the communal forms of Jewish life, both informal and institutional.

Our interviewees are Jews residing in Poland (representing different generations), leaders of the Jewish community in Poland, Holocaust survivors, descendants of Polish Jews scattered all across the globe, donors to the POLIN Museum collection, Poles who rescued Jews during the Holocaust and their descendants, as well as local activists who work towards the preservation of Jewish heritage in Poland.

Interviews are published under the ”Oral history” tab on the Virtual Shtetl portal and on the YouTube channel “Historia mówiona / Kolekcja Muzeum POLIN”.

Development of the oral history collection is part of the work on the POLIN Museum portals: Virtual Shtetl and Polish Righteous. Interviews with witnesses to history are an important source of information and a supplement to the scholarly essays on history published on the portals, thus contributing to the popularisation of knowledge on the history of Polish Jews.

Logo of Jewish Cultural Heritage Project: from right side: logo of Norway grants, logo of Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of Republic of Poland, logo Polin Museum and JCK project. Below sentence: Working together for green, competetive and inclusive Europe.,,