One history

Wide protoko y
Shared history of JHI and the Association of the JHI of Poland

In the book released in 1996, on the 50th anniversary of establishing the Jewish Historical Institute, we can find a small article by Michał Friedman. The great translator of Yiddish literature writes: „50 years is not a lot in a thousand years of history of Jews on Polish soil. But the 50 years of the Association of the Jewish Historical Institute is an enormous, nearly heroic period in history of the post-war Jewish community in Poland”.

Michał Friedman consciously mentioned the Association of the JHI in his quote about the JHI. The Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute and the Association of the Jewish Historical Institute of Poland are two separate, important and specific institutions, for many decades, they were one and the same organization. On the 70th anniversary of the JHI, it is worth recalling their shared history.

In 1944 in Lublin, the Central Committee of the Polish Jews (the most important post-war Jewish organization) established the Central Jewish Historical Commission, whose main goals were to collect accounts of Holocaust survivors and to make available proof material useful in prosecuting German war criminals. In 1946, the Commission had collected already over 8,000 cases of archives, several dozen diaries, memoirs and works of literature, about 2,000 personal accounts, a few thousand books found in ghetto ruins, over 3,000 photographs, 250 paintings, sculptures and synagogalia. The most significant part of these resources was the Underground Archive of the Warsaw Ghetto – the Ringelblum Archive.

On 1 October 1947, the CCPJ decided to transform the Commission into the Jewish Historical Institute, located at 5 Tłomackie street, in the rebuilt edifice of the pre-war Institute for Judaistic Sciences and the Main Judaistic Library.

The JHI, which was a subsidiary of the Central Committee of the Polish Jews, continued the Commission’s work. It was also the successor of its collection, as well as of the Jewish Society for the Advancement of Arts. It also committed itself to create the Central Archive of the Polish Jewry in order to provide documents for researchers; established the JHI Library, which continued the work of the Central Jewish Library; began works on opening a museum and search for remaining parts of the Ringelblum Archive; began publishing a historical quarterly in Yiddish language, „Bleter far Geszichte”.

On 29 October 1950, the Polish United Workers’ Party issued a decision to close down the CCPJ. A few days later, on 8 November, at the General Meeting of the founding members, JHI employees established the Association of the Jewish Historical Institute, which was registered in 1951 and became an independent legal entity. The Association had used, throughout its history, two names — Association of the Jewish Historical Institute and Jewish Historical Institute. Its main aims and activities resulted from and continued the work of the previous JHI – complex studies on the history of Jews, research and academic activity, and popularizing its results.

Through the following 42 years, the Association, along with the Institute functioning within its structure, ceaselessly continued to fulfil its mission despite political and financial difficulties.

On 18 May 1993, at the General Meeting, members of the Association of the JHI decided to distinct the Institute and authorized the Board to make the Association's resources available, free of charge – especially the Tłomackie 3/5 building, as well as archives, documents, library resources and artworks – to a future research institute. The Association requested the Minister of Culture and Arts to establish said institute.

On 18 April 1994, on the basis of Decree no. 13, the Minister of Culture and Arts established the Jewish Historical Institute – an Institute for Science and Research. The activity of the JHI – ISR, located in the former Main Judaistic Library, was based mainly on resources made available by the Association. In December 2008, the Minister of Culture and National Heritage decided to close down the JHI – ISR, which was followed by founding the Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute on 1 January 2009.

Today, the Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute is the longest-functioning Jewish scientific institution in Poland. As a state institution of culture, builds a scientific and academic base for the development of knowledge about history and culture of Jews, especially the history and culture of Polish Jews; it popularizes research results, provides access to surviving material testimony, and ensures complex care for resources granted by the Association.

The Association of the Jewish Historical Institute of Poland has been continuing its work ceaselessly since 1951 – as a non-governmental social organization, whose goal is to maintain and reinforce memory about the history and culture of Polish Jews and about their contribution to the culture of the world. Currently, this goal is implemented mainly through support for the Museum of the History of Polish Jews and the Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute.

The Association and the Institute cooperate on the basis of public-private partnership in the area of projects which are aimed at maintenance and access to the resources which belong to both organizations. Since 2016, the most important common project is the multiannual Oneg Szabat program, whose main goals are: providing access to the documents from the Underground Archive of the Warsaw Ghetto, popularizing knowledge about this most important document of the Holocaust of Polish Jews and commemorating the members of the Oneg Shabbat group.

The Association and the JHI are located in the pre-war building of the former Main Judaistic Library at Tłomackie street.

From 1 October, at the JHI website, we will publish articles and interviews about history, resources and main areas of activity of the Jewish Historical Institute. This year, we will also publish „Institute. 70 years of the history of the JHI in source documents”, a book edited by Helena Datner and Olga Pieńkowska.

On 15 November 2017, the JHI will host an academic session „70 years of the Jewish Historical Institute". The session will take place under a honorary patronage of the President of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Professor Jerzy Duszyński.

We would also like to invite you to the website dedicated to the Oneg Szabat program, launched by the Association of the JHI of Poland and the Jewish Historical Institute on 18 September 2017. Its goal is to commemorate and popularize the Ringelblum Archive.


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