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Jewish Families of Tarnow, Poland

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TARNOW, city in Poland, 45 mi. (72 km.) E. of Cracow.

Jewish merchants in Tarnow are mentioned in a few sources of the 15th century. The growth of the community and development of its institutions in the 1630s was based on grants of privileges successively endorsed by the magnates who owned Tarnow as their private domain (see *Poland-Lithuania). Its first privilege dating from 1581 exempts Tarnow Jewry from the municipal jurisdiction, entitles Jews to engage in trade in their own buildings and shops, and to distill and deal in alcoholic liquor. They were to pay taxes directly to the magnate and might own a cemetery near the city. The municipality was responsible for securing the synagogue and cemetery from attack. This grant met with strong opposition from the townsmen.

The ravages of the Swedish invasion in 1655 and a fire which broke out in 1663 caused much suffering to the community. As a result of the decrease of population and general economic deterioration, the Christians reached an agreement with the Jews in May 1670 to settle matters in dispute, including the question of importation of goods purchased outside the city bounds at the fairs. The agreement allocated to the Jewish community between 25% and 30% of the total tax paid by the townspeople. It prohibited the community from allowing newcomers to settle in Tarnow, excepting religious functionaries it was deemed necessary to invite from elsewhere (after informing the municipality), and assured the Jews of a water supply from the city wells. The Christian guilds on their part reached an understanding with the Jewish artisans. These agreements helped to mitigate the tensions existing between the Jewish and Christian populace. The same year (1670) the city overlord ratified the former privileges granted to the Jewish community; they were endorsed in 1676 and again in 1684.

There were four conflagrations in Tarnow in the first half of the 18th century: during the first, in 1711, all 23 buildings in the Jewish street and goods in the Jewish-owned shops were destroyed, and the community was exempted from the poll tax for four years to alleviate its plight. The lord of Tarnow was subsequently persuaded to allow Jews to reside and construct buildings outside their designated area. Jewish *guilds were established in 1740 which reached an agreement with their Christian counterparts on payment of special dues. The Tarnow community belonged to the Land of Lesser Poland (Kracow-Sandomierz) in the framework of the *Council of the Four Lands. The parnas of the community, Benjamin Ze'ev Wolf b. Ezekiel Landau, took an active part in the conventions of the council and represented Jewish interests before the secular authorities between 1718 and 1737. The census of 1765 records 900 Jews in Tarnow and 1,425 living in the villages within its communal jurisdiction.

Tarnow's annexation to Austria after the first partition of Poland in 1772 created new political conditions and weakened the authority of the manorial lord. In 1788 a Jewish school with secular educational trends under the direction of Naphtali Herz *Homberg was established in Tarnow, which continued until 1806. In 1833 the community asked the governor of Galicia for permission to widen the Jewish street and allow Jews to reside on the market square. Their request was strongly opposed by the municipal council which countered by suggesting the establishment of a foermliche Judenstadt, the setting up of an official Jewish quarter outside the city where the Jews were to move. No specific instructions followed, and Jews began to move beyond the old quarter shortly afterward, despite resistance from the citizens. *Blood libels were leveled against Jews in Tarnow in 1829 and 1844, but the accused were later released. A Jewish hospital was founded in 1842; in the 1890s the *Baron de Hirsch foundation established a school in Tarnow which continued in existence until 1914.

The majority of the Tarnow community were Ḥasidim, but in the 19th century the influence of the Enlightenment (*Haskalah), made itself felt in Tarnow, where the Hebrew writer Mordecai David *Brandstaedter was prominent. Zionism spread among the youth and a number of maskilim in the 1890s, and a society of Ahavat Zion was founded in Tarnow in 1891 with the object of immigrating to Ereẓ Israel and founding a Galician settlement there; the Zionist movement was headed by Abraham *Salz up to 1914. The community numbered 1,200 in 1772 (34% of the total population), 7,914 in 1846, 11,677 in 1890 (42.4%), 15,108 in 1910 (41.2%), 15,608 in 1921 (44.2%), and 19,330 in 1931. Around the beginning of the 20th century the expanding cloth and hat industry in Tarnow occupied 300 Jewish workers.

In 1921, of the 593 Jewish-owned workshops and light industrial plants in Tarnow, 320 employed hired labor and 261 were owner-operated; the total of Jewish hired workers was 830 (555 males, 227 females, 48 minors). The majority of enterprises were garment-manufacturing, mainly hats (360, employing 1,088 persons, 573 of them Jews). Economic conditions deteriorated for the Jewish sector after Poland regained its independence in 1919, and the community was eventually forced to provide social assistance. The income of the community in 1928 was 271,890 zlotys and the expenditure 396,264 zlotys. The Polish authorities intervened in communal affairs; elective offices were abolished and commissars appointed who administered communal matters for over six years. The Zionist movement in Tarnow was headed by Shmuel Shpan and Ḥayyim Neiger. Communal elections were held in February 1937, and a Zionist leadership was returned, of which Abraham Chomet was elected chairman, the last to hold this office.

[Nathan Michael Gelber]

Holocaust Period

Before the outbreak of World War II there were over 25,000 Jews in Tarnow. The German army entered on Sept. 8, 1939, and terrorization of the Jewish population began. In May 1940 leading Jewish personalities (the lawyers Emil Wieder and Isaac Holzer and the director of the local Hebrew school, Maximilian Rosenbusch) were deported to *Auschwitz; they were among the first Jewish victims of that camp. In March 1941 a decree proclaiming the establishment of a ghetto was issued. At the beginning of June 1942 Jews from all surrounding smaller places were concentrated there. A few days later, on June 11–13, 1942, about 12,000 Jews from Tarnow were deported to the *Belzec death camp and exterminated there. After that deportation the ghetto was divided into two parts: Ghetto A, which became a forced-labor camp; and Ghetto B, a family camp, where many died from hunger.

On Sept. 10, 1942, the second deportation took place and another 8,000 Jews met their deaths in Belzec. On Nov. 15, during the third deportation, about 3,000 Jews died. The last deportation took place on Sept. 2, 1943, when 5,000 Jews were sent to Auschwitz and another 3,000 to the Plaszow concentration camp. Almost all of them perished. Over 500 Jews who tried to hide were shot and another 700 were shot on the way to the Szebnia camp. Only 300 Jews were left in Tarnow in a newly established forced-labor camp (so-called Saeuberungskommando), but in December 1943 they were transferred to the Plaszow concentration camp, where almost all of them were murdered. After the war over 700 Jews settled in Tarnow but soon left the city due to the inimical attitude of the local Polish population. In 1965 only 35 Jews lived there. Organizations of former Jewish residents of Tarnow are active in Israel, the United States, France, and Canada.

[Stefan Krakowski]

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Torne: Kiem un Khurbn fun a Yidisher Shtot (1954); Halpern, Pinkas, index; R. Mahler, Yidn in Amolikn Poyln in Likht fun Tsifern (1958); I. Schiper, in: Kwartalnik historyczny, 19 (1905), 228–39; Tarnow-Sefer Zikkaron, ed. by A. Chomet and J. Cornillo, 2 vols. (Yid. and Heb., 1968).