2,500 exhibits, 240 multimedia stations, 6 stories underground, and 8 above ground. World War II Museum in Gdańsk, opened in March, 2017, is one of the most comprehensive exhibitions in the world on the greatest tragedy that struck humanity in the 20th century.
The museum is the largest history museum in Poland. Its creation and construction took several years, but today citizens of Gdańsk can proudly say that the building’s characteristic leaning tower has gracefully merged into the city’s landscape.
The exhibition is located mainly underground, which is to remind everyone of what kind of hell war is. It has been divided into three parts: „The road to war” , „Horrors of war” , and „The long shadow of war”. The first part aims at thoroughly explaining the roots of totalitarism and the 1939 breakout of the war, which is particularly important in context of the entire exhibition.
The first room alone is very impressive. An enormous, panoramic screen show a cinematic introduction to the events of the beginning of the 20th century. Further, we follow the main corridor of the exhibition, visiting room after room. We will learn about resettlements of people, the construction of conentration camps, fate of soldiers and atrocities commited on prisoners of war.
The exhibits include German Nazi torpedo propulsion system or tank, as well as a doll house that a small girl from Berlin took with herself to a shelter when the Allies bombed the city.
Another impressive display is the reconstruction of a picturesque, pre-war street with Polish storefronts, and – near the end of the exhibition – a similar street, which was reduced to rubble, with a tank in front of the entrance of a house. It is impossible to be indifferent to the symbolic wall created from several dozen of suitcases, which reminds about conentration camps, as well as to the part in which pillars are filled with photos of Jews murdered in these camps.
The museum has been well-thought over. It also sends a message that will be understood by the youngest visitors. In a simple, yet most expressive way, it shows the tragedy of war that strikes every single person. Three separate rooms have been arranged to resemble a typical living room in a war-consumed city. We go from a neatly decoreated, well taken care after room, to a ruin with a bomb hole in the wall…
The exhibition includes two thousand items, including movies, photographs, and maps. There is also plenty of simulations and games. A worthwhile element of the exhibition is the room with a simulation of Enigma, where everyone can become a master cryptographer. What is important, the overall narration refers not only to the key characaters of World War II, but it also shows faces, names, and stories of civilian population (including children) – people, who suffered the most during the war.
The Gdańsk-based museum tells about the tragedy of war in a broader, geographic context: the exhibition also presents, among others, what the Japanes occupation was all about.
The museum’s building is top-class world architecture. The most talented architects from all around the world enrolled into the design contet, however the international jury decided to reward the project by „Kwadrat” Architecture Studio from Gdynia.
The museum comprises six underground and 8 above-ground stories. The underground part, as it was already mentioned, is a permanent exhibition. The spacious Władysław Bartoszewski Square, where the museum is situated, is a place of leisure and outdoor events. The leaning tower, on the other hand, which „grows” from the ground reflect on the one hand the destruction of war, and on the other, it reaches to the sky, symbolising the never-dying hope.
The museum also has a designated room for a Cinema hall, conference rooms, temporary exhibitions, and a restaurant.
An underground parking is available.
World War II Museum is located in a very attractive spot, near Motława river, and the Długie Pobrzeże (Long Pier). After having visited the museum, it is good to stroll along the river bank to let the thoughts sink in, and to reflect upon the exhibtion.