Museum of Polish Jews POLIN without head for 2nd month

The Minister of Culture is delaying the appointment of Dariusz Stola, chosen for the post by a selection committee.

“We had an agreement, that the results of the election for the head of the museum would be respected regardless of who is chosen,” says Piotr Wiślicki, of the Jewish Historical Institute Association.

The board of trustees of the Museum of Polish Jews POLIN is composed in equal parts of people nominated by the Jewish Historical Institute Association, the City of Warsaw and the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage.

Dariusz Stola received the votes of 11 of the 15 members of the selection committee. However, he still has to be confirmed by the Minister for Culture and National Heritage Piotr Gliński. The vote was held on May 10. As of July 16, Gliński has still not confirmed him. Stola served as the head of museum between 2014 and 2019.

The Jewish Historical Institute Association collected PLN 187 mln (EUR 43.9 mln) in donations for the museum over the years. Wiślicki says that because of the delay in the confirmation some philanthropists have suspended donations.

“Donors tell us: you’re collecting funds for an institution, which isn’t properly organised. They don’t know what will happen in the future, what programs will be organised, what exhibitions will be created,” says Wiślicki.

“I’m using my prerogatives and I’m analysing the situation, because after the selection I’ve received information about Mr Stola’s actions, which, in my opinion, don’t fit into the statute of the institution,” said Gliński.

He pointed at Stola’s refusal to hold a conference in memory of Lech Kaczyński, who served both as the president of Warsaw, where the museum is located and later as President of Poland, as reason for additional review.

“Part of the mission of the museum is taking care of good Polish-Jewish relations. [...] Lech Kaczyński did a lot to better these relations, he was one of the cocreators of the POLIN museum,” said the Minister.

Comment

POLIN is no ordinary museum. Its subject matter ensures that it will always have a high public profile at home and abroad.

Polish-Jewish relations are a sensitive matter. The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Culture is only too well aware that he has to tread carefully.

Prof. Dariusz Stola obviously has the support of the Board of that museum. But on the other hand there are those backers of the current government who are not happy with his continued management of the institution.

Piotr Gliński is trying to steer a course between the two conflicted camps. By questioning a decision not to hold a conference in memory of President Lech Kaczyński, a President who undoubtedly contributed very positively to Polish-Jewish relations, he is putting pressure on Prof. Stola and his backers to ensure that they are more sensitive in future.

The delay in the appointment is the minister signalling to his own backers that he is trying to exert some influence. But he is all too aware that any attempt to overrule the decision of the Board would mean conflict at home and abroad. This is why a delay is as far as he is likely to take this matter before consenting, however reluctantly, to the appointment.

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