The Jewish Historical Institute possesses the largest collection of Jewish art works in post-war Poland. For the last four years it has been presenting its collections in temporary exhibitions and is preparing a permanent exhibition about Underground Ghetto Archive. It organizes a range of artistic events, academic conferences and public education meetings, and pursues both educational and publishing activity. JHI is both a depository of the memory of the past and a living cultural centre – an institution actively participating in the creation of historical and civic awareness.
The building of the Main Judaic Library, occupied today by the Jewish Historical Institute, came into use just before the Second World War, although the idea for the building arose during the erection of the Great Synagogue (built in 1878). Before the war, the building was the headquarters of the Main Judaic Library and the Institute for Judaic Studies. The latter, opened on 9 February 1928, became the first Jewish research and educational centre in Europe which, alongside theological studies, also engaged in secular studies. The building of the Main Judaic Library was built adjacent to the Great Synagogue on Tłomackie Street. The designer of the Library building, erected in the years 1928–1936, was Edward Zacharias Eber. During the war, our building was one of the centres of Jewish social life in the Warsaw ghetto. The Jewish Historical Institute was established officially in 1947 and has been located in the building at 5 Tłomackie Street ever since.
The Jewish Historical Institute holds collections of painting and graphics, sculpture and metalwork, historical memorabilia, and Judaica. Our collection of paintings and drawings is one of the largest collections of works of Jewish artists of the interwar period. The largest collection of works of ritual art in Poland gives a good idea of all the types of liturgical articles used in the synagogue, in private prayer, and in the celebration of religious festivals in the home. The gold artefacts in the collection are generally of high artistic quality, originating in the leading centres of the goldsmith’s craft, such as Warsaw, Berlin, Breslau, Vienna, Moscow, Kiev, and Jerusalem. They include a considerable number of spice boxes and an impressive set of Torah shields. The third sub-set in the JHI Museum’s collection consists of historical artefacts, most of which date from the Second World War and the Nazi occupation.