A museum that is one of a kind
Gdańsk needed such a place. It was right here, in Westerplatte, the Polish military depot, that one of the most tragic chapters in the history of Europe and the world opened with the first fire.
The Museum of the Second World War commemorates those days, but it also shows stories of ordinary people and everyday life in those difficult times.Such a place was needed for a long time. And it was needed in the city which was Hitler’s strategic point and where Nazi Germany forces met with active resistance for the first time – in the military depot in Westerplatte and the Polish Post Office. This exceptional institution was set up close to these two places. Covering 23 000 m2 of the usable area, including 5 000 m2 designated for the permanent exhibition, the Museum of the Second World War is one of the most innovative museums in Europe and one of the largest exhibitions on this topic. Its uniqueness is related to its narration, being a story of WW2 from an original perspective.
At present, the final arrangements are being discussed. Although Doors Open Days, when representatives of culture, architects and journalists saw the main exhibition, took place in January 2017, in February, the final shape of the exhibition is still under heated discussion. The problem is related to political disputes, whose results will determine the future of that new important part of the city. Let’s leave the political arguments aside and come back to the museum’s underground where the exhibition is hosted.
What will you see there if the authorities keep the original concept? An impressive exhibition, telling the stories of civilians – those who suffered the most during the war. The grand politics will be depicted in the background, as an aspect that changed the lives of millions of people. There will be mementos donated by those who experienced the hell of war themselves or by children of victims and war heroes; heart-rending artefacts, such as ankle boots, a teddy bear or a wedding dress sewn from a parachute. Modern, interactive multi-media panels will be combined with the everyday life objects. The exhibition is aimed to make us contemplate the ability of a human being to adapt to any living conditions, even the most dreadful ones. Moreover, it will also depict the immeasurable cruelty that inhuman ideologies brought on.
The permanent exhibition is divided into three narrative blocks. “The road to war” is dedicated to the origin of the most fatal event of the 20th century. “The horrors of war” shows the everyday life of people of various nationalities, religions and ethnic background – all terrorised by the ruthless systems. Finally, “The war’s long shadow” describes long-lasting implications of the war, especially in Eastern Europe.
The institution owes its uniqueness also to the building itself, designed by the Architecture Studio “Kwadrat” from Gdynia. Architects from the studio are authors of other significant designs in Tricity, such as the European Solidarity Centre in Gdańsk and Infobox in Gdynia. The heart of the museum, that is exhibitions, is located underground, and above ground, there is an asymmetrical tower 40 metres high. Its glass structure giving splendid views of the sky and the monuments of the Main Town symbolises looking to the future.
The museum, located by the Motława River, close to the historical part of the city and the European Solidarity Centre, will be an important sight-seeing spot for tourists visiting Gdańsk.
The idea of establishing the museum emerged in 2008 when Donald Tusk, who was the Prime Minister then, expressed such an intention. Construction works began in 2012 and lasted four subsequent years. The museum is to be opened for visitors in February/March 2017.