DEPARTMENT OF MUSEUMS AND MONUMENTS OF POLISH MARTYROLOGY IN 1945–54 AND TO-DATE CONTINUATION OF ITS TASKS
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The operations of the Department of Museums and Monuments of Polish Martyrology were launched in April 1945 as an organizational unit within the Head Authorities of Museums and Monument Preservation active within the structure of the Ministry of Culture and Art. The Department’s supreme goal was to document and visually commemorate sites connected with the martyrdom of Poles under the German occupation in 1939–45 by founding museums and raising monuments on execution sites throughout the whole country. The establishment of such an institution was a response of the government to the spontaneous social movement whose goal following the tragic war experience was to commemorate all the fallen in armed struggle and the executed in the Nazi death camps. The social initiatives inspired the authorities to coordinate such efforts, to identify the priorities in this respect, and to select various commemoration forms. These tasks, along with many other ones, were to be implemented by the Department of Museums and Monuments of Polish Martyrology. The paper deals with the characteristics of the Department’s activities, its organizational structure, as well as the detailed aims and tasks implemented over the 9 years of its operations: from the establishment in 1945 to its winding up in 1954. All the Department’s activities meant to commemorate martyrology sites can be divided into those related to the organization and establishment of museums on the sites of former camps, prisons, and Gestapo investigating offices (e.g. museums in Auschwitz, Majdanek, at Warsaw’s 25 Szucha Avenue), and those related to raising monuments to the Nazi regime’s victims. Furthermore, forms meant to continue the efforts initiated by the Department since 1954 are described. The paper is to a great degree based on the documentation preserved in the Central Archives of Modern Records, yet constitutes but an introductory outline as well as encouragement to further investigate the Department’s history.
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