Poland: Ousting Jewish museum head who criticized Holocaust law ‘not political’

Online petition claims government not renewing Dariusz Stola’s contract at end of his 5-year term is a ‘political decision’

Cnaan Liphshiz is The Times of Israel's Jewish World reporter

The Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, Poland. (AP/Czarek Sokolowski)
The Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, Poland. (AP/Czarek Sokolowski)

JTA — Several thousand people signed a petition condemning Polish authorities for not extending the tenure of the director of the country’s foremost Jewish museum.

Dariusz Stola’s five-year contract at the Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw ends this year. The museum, which opened in 2013, has seen more than 600,000 visitors annually and has won several awards.

A government spokesman confirmed that the position has been opened to other candidates, and said Stola can reapply.

The online petition on Avaaz, which on Thursday had over 4,500 signatures, suggests a political motive behind the decisions.

“We witness a clearly political decision of not renewing” Stola’s contract, it reads.

Poland’s President Andrzej Duda, right, and Dariusz Stola, the director of the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, visit the museum in Warsaw, Poland, on Thursday March 3, 2016. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

The petition did not say why authorities would wish to terminate Stola, who has criticized a controversial law passed last year in Poland that makes it illegal to blame the Polish nation for Nazi crimes, Gazeta reported.

Jarosław Sellin, a spokesman for the Polish Culture Ministry, which has some discretion over who runs the museum, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency there are “no political reasons” behind the decision to open the position to other candidates.

Sellin said the Culture Ministry, the municipality of Warsaw and the Association of the Jewish Historical Institute of Poland decided jointly to open the position to applicants.

The association confirmed this in a statement Monday and said it believes Stola “is the best candidate for the coming term.”

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