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Translation of Tuchow chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Polin
Translation of Tuchow chapter from
Published by Yad Vashem
Published in Jerusalem
Published in Jerusalem
This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot: Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Poland,
Volume III, pages 195-197, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem
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(Tarnow District, Krakow Region)
Tuchow was already known from the beginning of the 12th century as the estate of the Benedictine monastery in Tienic. Tuchow was granted the status of a city in 1341.
During the 17th century, the citizens exported dried prunes along the Wisla River, which were being transported from Hungary to Gdansk. During the 18th century, Tuchow was a city of commerce and trade that served the agricultural base. Throughout its existence, the town stood in the shadow of the nearby city of Tarnow, whose development impeded that of small Tuchow. After 1855, Tuchow became a regional city for several years.
During the months of World War I, Tuchow was under the occupation of the Russian Army, which caused great destruction in the city while it was stationed there and during its retreat in 1915.
No Jews lived in Tuchow during the first centuries of the existence, since it was the estate of the monastery. During the latter half of the 18th century, five Jewish families settled there. They were apparently occupied in leasing inns in the city and its environs. These families were subordinate to the Tarnow community. It was almost impossible for Jews to settle in Tuchow until 1865. The local Jewish community only started to grow after that time. During that time, the first synagogue was built in Tuchow, and the community was organized. In 1875, the rabbi of Tuchow requested from the Galician Sejm to provide a monetary grant to the community council in order to enable the empty communal coffers to pay his salary.
During those days, the livelihood of the Jews of Tuchow came from small scale commerce, trades, and peddling in the villages. Communal life and the life situation of the Jews of Tuchow were influenced to a large degree from the much larger community of nearby Tarnow. When an Ahavat Zion organization was established in Tarnow in 1897, a chapter was also set up in Tuchow.
In 1904, the Jewish community of Tuchow was frightened by a blood libel with a pogrom in its wake. After a dispute broke out between a farmer and his sister, the sister ascended the attic of the shochet (ritual slaughterer) and prepared to commit suicide. Suddenly the shochet saw that blood was dripping from his ceiling. When he ascended to his attic, he saw the Christian girl wallowing in her blood. When word got out, a large group of local residents gathered together, prepared to take revenge on the Jews for ritual murder. The most eager of them began to break the windowpanes of the Jewish homes. To the good fortune of the local Jews, the woman had not yet died, and she was able to tell the truth to the policeman. However, things did not calm down for several months.
During the first weeks of World War I, most of the Jews of Tuchow fled in the wake of the retreating Austrian army. Only 40 people remained, most of them poor people who were not able to arrange any transportation. The Russian soldiers treated them harshly and pillaged their meager property. There were also incidents of rape. The conquerors destroyed the interior of the synagogue. The rest of the houses of worship and buildings were turned into latrines. The Jews who remained there succeeded in saving the Torah scrolls and hiding them.
During the inter-war period, the Jewish population of Tuchow declined. During the 1930s, their livelihood was in constant decline. The Jewish community was barely able to pay the salary of the rabbi. During that time, Rabbi Shalom Alowice (Niemetz) served as the rabbi of Tuchow.
Despite the depressed situation of the Jewish community, there was vibrant Zionist activity. There was a chapter of the General Zionists and two youth movements: Hashomer Hatzair and Akiva. The Zionist organizations maintained a library and reading hall, which served as a modest cultural center for all the Jewish residents of Tuchow.
In the elections for the Zionist Congress of 1935, the members voted as follows: 17 for the General Zionists, two for Mizrachi ,three for the Working Land of Israel List, four for the State Party, and five for Hitachdut. In 1938, there was a convention of the Endek Party from three regions. The participants attacked the Jewish homes and broke the windowpanes.
On the day of the outbreak of the war, many Jews fled from Tuchow and joined the refugees who were streaming eastward. However, on account of the rapid advance of the German army, the escape routes were closed off, and most of them returned.
On the day after they entered Tuchow, the Germans set the synagogue on fire and murdered several Jews. The soldiers of the Wehrmacht snatched Jews for forced labor. They tortured the Orthodox by cutting off their beards. They broke into the stores and houses and stole the property that was in them.
In December 1939, all Jewish men from the age of 13 and above were commanded to appear in the local school. The announcement stated that those who do not come would be taken out and killed. After most of the men gathered in the designated place, the Germans took out 15 men from among them, and took them to an unknown place. All trace of them was lost. The attempts of the members of the community to find out their fate came to naught. Only after three months did a farmer inform the heads of the community of Tuchow that he had stumbled across some corpses in the nearby village of Tarnowiec. The victims were identified, and only after the payment of a large bribe did the German authorities permit them to bring them to a Jewish burial in the Tuchow cemetery. All of the Jews were ordered to remain in their houses when they were brought to Tuchow. Only a few members of the Chevra Kadisha took care of their burial.
A Judenrat was established at the end of 1939. It was headed by Wachs. The Judenrat had the responsibility for enumerating the Jewish population and providing people for forced labor.
In 1940, the Germans captured a minyan (prayer quorum) of Jews who were worshipping in the home of the Weiss family. After the burning of the synagogue at the beginning of the occupation, the Weis home served as a secret house of worship. . All who were present during the services were murdered. The Germans forbade the burial of the bodies in the cemetery, but rather ordered that they be buried in the yard of the house in which they met their deaths.
In 1941, deportees from Ryglice, Gromnik, Czeinzkowice, and other settlements of the area were brought to Tuchow. The situation of the local community and the refugees worsened. The Judenrat and the J.S.S. branch assisted those in need to the extent possible. At the beginning of the summer of 1942, workshops for tailors and other tradesmen were established through the efforts of the Judenrat. This was an effort to create work for the Jews, and thereby to avoid them being captured for the work camps. Men also worked in quarries close to Tuchow.
The ghetto was established in June 1942. The chairman of the Judenrat was murdered at the time of its establishment. A Pole who was interested in his house slandered him, reporting that he was a Communist.
The boundaries of the ghetto encompassed 17 buildings in the southern section of Tuchow. At the time of its establishment, additional deportees from the region were brought in, and the Jewish population reached 3,000.
At the end of the summer of 1942, the Germans ordered the Judenrat to conduct an exact census of all the residents of the ghetto. An aktion took place in September 1942. The exact time of the aktion is not known, but it was apparently prior to Rosh Hashanah of 5703. The ghetto was surrounded by the German and Polish police ,and all of its residents were ordered to gather in the town square, where a selection took place.
Only a small group of workers remained in the ghetto. All of the rest were sent to the Belzec death camp. The remnants of the community were occupied with the disposition of the property of the deportees. Some worked in agricultural farms in the region of Tuchow.
The ghetto was liquidated completely on August 18, 1943. The last of its residents were taken out to be murdered in the place, and a few were transferred to Tarnow.
The few survivors of the Jewish of Tarnow came across a very depressing scene after the liberation. The cemetery had been destroyed completely and its area was ploughed over. The gravestones were used to pave the streets and sidewalks.
AYUSh: 03/3271, 03/3436.
ATzM: Z-1/279, Z/1/414
AshTz: (3)83, (3)84.1.2.
Hamagid, April 5, 1865, Nov 14, 1897. Hamitzpeh, October 21, 1904, January 31, 1908. Hatzefira, April 7, 1875. Kol Machzikei Hadas November 18, 1904.
Diwrej Akiba, November 13, 1933. Nowy Dziennik, January 4, 1922, December 2, 1927, July 6, 1933, November 18, 1937, August 18, 1938. Tygodnik Zydowski, Marh 14, 1930, August 19, 1938.
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