by Simcha Statfeld (Pardes Chana, Israel)
Translated by David Goldman
It was a small town that exists no more.
Tarnogrod, our little town began to disappear on the first day of Rosh Hashana in 1939 at 12 noon. I was a witness on that day to the arrival of the first Germans into the wide marketplace. However, even before they arrived at the marketplace they had already planted the seeds of death among the Jewish population. The first victim was a teenage boy of 16 years old, the grandson of Itsikel Kaklus, whom the Germans shot on Lochow Street. I heard his mother's restrained but bitter weeping and sensed the end of the Jewish community in our small and poor town.
The destruction of our town began on the second day of Rosh Hashana, Friday night at midnight. A number of Polish soldiers hiding among the Jewish houses in the area between Mendele Bishtcher and Yankel Mantel, attacked the German soldiers who were stationed in the marketplace across from these two houses. As a result of this military confrontation the Germans took the Jews out of their homes and shot them on the spot. The result was that thirteen people were killed, and their bodies were immediately burned together with the houses . The fires quickly spread and nothing could stop it. Jews did not dare go out on the street, they fled to the fields around town and to the nearby villages. The armed Germans patrolled the streets and captured Jews, especially men, and rounded them up in various locations. They made use of a trumped up charge that the Jews attacked them at night, and that if it happened again they would kill all the Jews. But who could be certain that some provocation might not occur again, which would result in the Germans keeping their threat?
My family, several other dozen people and myself from Roznitz Street fled out to the fields at those streets, and we could see how our town was destroyed so quickly. The whole situation was one of tremendous disorder.
This is what happened over several days and nights, where every morning some wished it were already night, and at night others wished it were morning. In general, the town started to empty out in the evening hours. Some went to the nearby villages while others ran out to the fields. This included men, women and children. There was great fear of remaining in town, and the gentile villages refused to allow them to enter their homes and yards.
Anti-Jewish propaganda spread among the villages, and in town the result on Friday night was 13 dead before our very eyes. However, this situation was unavoidable. The world was big, but there was nowhere to run. In the meantime the Germans were satisfied with looting and theft of Jewish property, while engaging in beatings and various forms of humiliation. They captured Jews for all types of work, and in at the worksites they abused them in various ways. I was among 10 people caught on Saturday evening to supposedly put out the fire burning since the morning. We were brought to the Yankel Magram [sic] and Rivka Mantel's building, and started tearing down the half-burned buildings using tools they gave us, yet even while working they were hitting and kicking us. Finally, at around 11 pm they sent us warning us that anyone who did not disappear from the marketplace within 5 minutes would get a bullet in the head.
This situation of fear and threats continued this way day and night until the holiday of Sukkot, when after a tense period of waiting the Soviet army arrived, which was greeted with flags and flowers. The whole town was overjoyed; finally we were able to breathe a sigh of relief.
This did not last long however, and all the joy ended after just a single week. According to the agreement made, the Russians left Tarnogrod and retreated almost to Shinova [Sieniawa]. Then the Germans returned to our town, and the abuses returned with great energy. However, many Jews left Tarnogrod with the Russians, especially the youth. This depressing picture was the view of what was happening in our town. It was on a Friday morning, the last day of the pullout of the Russians from town. I glanced over in the direction of Fishel Foxman and could see teenage boys and girls of various ages carrying full bundles on their backs, making their way quickly to the gates of Korchov [Korchw]. They were accompanied to the gate by parents. When saying their quick goodbyes the parents, and especially the mothers had eyes filled with tears. The question they were asking themselves was whether they would ever see their children again, and in fact, in most cases they never saw their children and relatives again.
That very same evening the Germans entered town. The dance of the devils with the local Jewish population began: abuse, beatings, and various types of mistreatment in full view of the Christian population in the marketplace. This was the fate of the Jews of Tarnogrod.
In view of this dangerous situation Jews in town began their departure from town and to cross the Russian border. However, this could only be done with various dangers and difficulties. When the people of Tarnogrod reached the conclusion that they had to leave everything behind and save their lives, it was too late. But in spite of this, slow movement began in the direction of Shinova, some by vehicle and others by foot. Four other people and I - I remember that two of them were Reuven Richter and Mechl Rinskiss made our way through the fields and side roads in the direction of the border. We planned to arrive in Shinova to see what the situation was like there, to return and then move there with our families. We arrived at the village next to the border, a place where Mendil Yoshes Futer's son lived. Upon arrival the Germans removed our watches, and in the evening we crossed the border, where we were captured by the Russian border guards. The next day they brought us in peace together with several hundred other Jews.
Two days later we returned to Tarnogrod with the decision to cross back again to Shinova with the whole family. On the way back to Tarnogrod we ran into such Jews from Tarnogrod who walked or traveled in the direction of the border. Some left Tarnogrod and returned several times, while other traveled for business purposes, and yet others to bring back something from home. Thus, there was constant wandering and confusion.
News from Shinova and from Yalovtchov [Naleczow] was not encouraging because of the flow of refugees. There was nowhere to live and not enough food. This situation led to most Jews in Tarnogrod adapting to the new situation in our own town. We had a motto among the people of Tarnogrod that being able to sleep on one's own bed was something of great value, but a few hours later one would change his mind and start packing his bags. The various events occurring through a single day or night affected this instability. For instance, in the village of Rekowka, there lived a Jew named Iser Lumerman. One night they came in and killed his wife. He and the other family members moved to Tarnogrod. Already by 1939 the lives of Jews were easy targets. Only a nearsighted person thought that things would calm down.
I left Tarnogrod on November 15, 1939 in the early afternoon, and great fear spread throughout town. Families and relatives separated, children left their parents, and husbands left their wives. Even I left my parents, and brothers and sisters, both on my side and on my wife's side of the family. Only 5 people left Tarnogrod. My young brother-in-law, 14 years old, accompanied us to the end of Lochow Street, crying bitterly all the way from the house of Zelig the Shoemaker to where I lived, as if he assumed that he would never see us again. So when I returned to Tarnogrod in 1944, two weeks before Rosh Hashanah, I found no one alive except my young brother-in-law.
I left behind 5 members of my family in Tarnogrod, and two of us returned. I found the town burned and destroyed. The population of our town was buried in several mass graves. Most near the Christian cemetery on Roznitz Street and in the yard of David Yoel the shoemaker. May their eternal rest be bound among the living and their memories never forgotten.
by Shmuel Peretz Shprung
Translated by Miriam Leberstein
|Shmuel Peretz Shprung|
With the help of G-d, the week of the Torah portion Shoftim, end of the month of Av, year 1942, here in Potok, near the San River, province of Bilgoraj.
To all those in the diaspora:
It has been almost a year since the issuance of the decree to exterminate the Jews. They began to carry out the slaughter in the month of Cheshvan.
In Tarnogrod, they pulled Jews from their homes, their beds, wherever they found them. Until now, more than 200 have been killed in Jozefow, near Tomaszow; in Zamosc, 1,700 women and children in the course of one day.
In the town of Rzeszow, 17,000 last month, young and old.
In Kilna, near Sahan, 70 people; in Zamosc up to 1,000; in Lublin, more than 20,000; in Warsaw, several thousand slaughtered; plus many more in the villages and other towns.
When the lowlifes wanted to throw a party, they would round up a bunch of people and shoot them. They threw children of all ages alive into the graves where their murdered parents lay.
On the Sabbath of the 47th Torah portion, Parashat Re'eh, they deported 2,000 people from Tarnogrod; we don't know where they were taken. At the same time, they took about the same number of people from Bilgoraj.
It is impossible to describe all the horrors committed by the killers. We must not forgive or forget that the local residents, Poles and Ukrainians, assisted at almost every slaughter. They wanted to get rich on our misfortunes, to get rid of us as soon as possible. They made false denunciations and accusations to spark the powder keg.
The man who is the bearer of this letter is not like them. He does not bear us any ill will. If this letter reaches someone, this man should be rewarded.
We were also expelled from our village, we do not know why nor do we know where to go. We have been set loose to roam. One thing is certain, as soon as one falls into their hands, he is doomed.
From what we have heard of many occurrences, we know that the local inhabitants persecute us as much as the foreign devils. They have already inherited almost all of our property while we still live. And they have taken everything from those who were killed.
According to the news, more than a million Jews have been killed, just in the recent period. That is in addition to what they did at the beginning of the war, through their inquisition-like persecutions. Petlura [Ukrainian nationalist leader and perpetrator of pogroms against Jews in the post-World War I period], in his time, was less horrific than this bloodthirsty tyrant [Hitler].
Hundreds of thousands have died of starvation. In some places there were instances where, just for fun, they ordered all Jews to report and then carried out a selective extermination the old and weak, women and children were immediately shot. They left alive the somewhat stronger men, assigning them to all kinds of labor on a ration of 70 dekograms [about 2 ½ ounces] of bread a day, treating them barbarically. Anyone who was unable to carry out an order to run or lift heavy weights was shot.
The Jews resemble strange animals with large eyes deeply sunken into their cheeks. With no soap to wash with, their faces appear blackened, yellow, dirty and rough. They go about half-naked, many barefoot. Tarnogrod Jews have had to pay more than 200,000 zlotys in special tax levies.
They issued an order that strictly forbade a Jew to visit a non-Jewish neighbor; nor could a non-Jew visit a Jew. Both would be sentenced to death.
I, Shmuel Peretz Shrung, am 62 years old, with a family consisting of a wife, a mother, a daughter and a son-in-law with two small children. My brother, Chaim, 54 years old, lives in America, in the Bronx, at 1494 Crotona Park.
We have just received word that the several thousand Jew who were deported were killed. My son, Avram, born in 1906, was taken by the Russians from Sieniawa, near the Sana River, to Omsk in Siberia, along with our wife, our daughter-in-law, Gitl, from Ulanov near Sana, and their son Yosef-Leib.
I want this letter to find its way to someone, and whoever believes in God should take revenge for what has been done, in an even more horrific manner. As I write this, we have received news of slaughters in many places, wherever there are Jews. Polish witnesses have told about what they saw. Someone who worked in the prison in Bilgoraj told how the devils grabbed children by their hair and threw them against the wall and then took them off to be buried alive.
The Germans appointed many local people to official positions to help them accomplish their military goals and these officials assisted in our extermination. They were also charged with beating and pursuing Jews who tied to escape, and turned them over to the Germans to be killed immediately.
What I have described is only a small part of what has happened. I want to finish up this letter because this is a fateful moment. We are waiting, but we don't know for what. One thing is certain, and that is death. They hover over our property. We turn over everything, and many of them are happy with their riches.
May they and their descendants be cursed. Whoever has the means to wreak revenge but does not do so  The blood of the innocents will not be silent until all of the tyrants are destroyed as we Jews were, and meet horrible deaths by sword, hunger and grief.
Notwithstanding their hatred of Jews, many of them raped Jewish women and girls. We now number about 60 individuals or 10 families. If God helps and we survive and all is revealed, people will not believe how the living managed to survive.
The law prohibiting possession of fur was very strictly enforced. If they found one centimeter of fur or even animal skin without fur in a Jew's house, he was immediately shot.
An agency was established to harvest trees in the forest for lumber. The head of the agency is a Pole by the name of Stanislaw Pozdan, from Sanz. He beats Jews mercilessly and takes their money; Jews have also turned over clothing and shoes to him.
I have hidden my good fur coat with a neighbor Jan Zacharer. I have entrusted my son's bicycle with my neighbor Krok. With my neighbor Jan Ugram from Vovzhenietz I have left a lot of bed linens and clothing belonging to my daughter and son-in-law. Everything of mine that he has should be sold and the money used to take revenge on Geresh, the soltis [town official] of Kilen, who instigated the slaughter there. His neighbor, Kazhimierzh, the vice-mayor and an officer, told the Jews that they had to be exterminated because if they remained alive they would take revenge if the Germans lost the war.
We appeal to the world, to anyone who has a humane sensibility, not to ignore this appeal, but to take revenge on the bloodthirsty killers.
Translated by Miriam Leberstein
|These are a few documents that remain from the time of the Tarnogrod ghetto. The originals, in Polish, are now located in the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, to which we express our gratitude for sending us copies of these materials.|
These documents all relate to the work of the Jewish Social Self-Help organization (in Polish Zydowska Sampomoc Spoleczna [ZSS], in German: Juedicsche Sozial Selbshilfe), which was established in Krakow in 1940, with branches throughout the German-occupied territory. The branch in Tarnogrod was run by the town's Judenrat [Jewish council established to implement Nazi policies]. The ZSS worked with other Jewish welfare organizations, as well as welfare organizations outside of Poland, mainly the American Joint Distribution Committee, referred to here as The Joint. Many of these documents appear to be in the format of questionnaires or forms sent by the central office to the local branch to be filled out by them. In many cases, there is a blank space or a line following a question or word, indicating that there was no response by the branch, or in the case of a quantity, an answer of none. Any such blanks or omissions in the translation are in the original. Please see the Addendum for a copy of the original in Polish of the first letter.
|From: P. Goldhar
Judenrat of Tarnogrod
Tarnogrod, December 23, 1940
To: The American Joint Committee in Warsaw:
We respectfully request that you answer the following question: May we sell certain items that you sent to us as gifts? The question arises in the following matter. The branch [of The Joint Committee] in Lublin recently informed us that they had received certain donations, among them nine pairs of shoes. We are in need of a minimum of a hundred pairs of shoes. We have among us many refugees from Lodz, Bilgoraj, Janow, Tomaszow, et al. Hundreds of people have been going barefoot because their shoes were destroyed by working in various labor camps.
This presents the question of how to allocate nine pairs of shoes among 100 people. We were recently sent several sacks of flour. That, too, was not sufficient to satisfy our actual needs, but we could give each person at least a little bit, so that everyone could be treated equally. But there is no way to distribute nine pairs of shoes among 100 people. If one person receives a pair and another does not, we will be in danger for our lives.
The only solution is to sell the shoes and distribute the proceeds, a little bit to each person, so that everyone is satisfied and there is no envy or resentment.
We therefore request your quick response.
PS: We are not writing to your department in Lublin because we do not have their correct address.
There is a notation in pencil in response to this appeal, which reads: The clothing was donated by the ZSS and your appeal should be addressed to them. We must inform you that it is strictly forbidden to sell items that were sent as gifts.
Total for the period January to June
Lunch distributed to adults
Total for January-June
Tarnogrod, November 2, 1941
Krakow, January 1941
To: Jewish Aid Committee
We received your letter regarding the distribution of clothing and wish to clarify that the distribution was carried out by the Jewish Community Self-Help in Krakow with the assistance of the Lublin Committee.
Pursuant to regulations, we emphasize that any sale of items which you received as gifts is strictly forbidden.
Report of the Social Assistance Program
For the period from March 20 to June 30, 1941
Place: Tarnogrod County: Bilgoraj District: Lublin
1. Report of the Treasury
|Amount in treasury as of January 1, 1941||--||zlotys||1. Aid in form of dry food products|
|1. Municipal contributions||a) Community Kitchen||--||zlotys|
|a) Judenrat||600||zlotys||b) Food products distributed||1356.3|
|b) Contributions||769.5||c) Child nutrition||1356.3|
|c) Payments for lunch||2. Monetary aid||2574.8|
|d) Payments for health services||3. Distribution of heating supplies|
|e) Disbursement of aid||50||4. Distribution of purchased clothing|
|f) ------------||5. Housing aid||--|
|g) ------------||1419.5||6. Hygiene and Medical aid||249.75|
|2. Internal Subsidies:||7. Institutions for children and orphans|
|a) The Joint and other overseas organizations||--||zlotys||8. Homes for the aged||--|
|b) TOZ [Society for Protection of the Health of the Jewish Population]||--||9. Investments and repair||150.45|
|c) CENTOS [Federation of Associations for the Care of Jewish Orphans in Poland]||--||10. Adminstrative costs||870|
|d) Jewish Self-Help||2750||11. Refugees from Bilgoraj||260|
|e) Sale of Herring 13||679.3429||13||12. Transport||165|
|3. Additional amounts||13. ------------|
|a) Repayment of loans||--||14. Additional amounts:||--|
|Repayment of loans|
|June 30, 1941||83.5|
Tarnogrod, November 2, 1941
To: American Joint Committee
Along with this letter we are sending two completed reports about our social aid activity for the period from March 20 (i.e., since the inception of our branch) to June 30, 1941.
We ask you to excuse our delay in sending the reports. We had to wait to receive the necessary details from the secretariat of the Judenrat for the last quarter, which was not sent until now. The reason for the delay was that the Germans had levied a kontributsie [tax] upon our residents in the amount of 40,000 zlotys and the secretary of the Judenrat and several members were held as hostages pending the payment of that sum.
Respectfully, For the secretary (---), Ch. Teicher
Bilgoraj station, Tarnogrod Post Office, Addressee Chaskiel Teicher
Town of Tarngorod, Bilgoraj paviot, Lublin region,
For the Period from December 1, 1939 to June 30, 1941
(Average number of people monthly)
|Applied for Aid||1120||600||600||675|
Written during my last visit to Tarnogrod in 1949
|Translator's note: The besmedroshim [houses of study] served both as a place of study and a place of worship. The poem addresses the destruction not only of the besmedroshim but also other houses of worship such as shtibls [small simple places of worship for Hasidic groups] and the shul [synagogue] of Tarnogrod, although the synagogue is distinguished for its partial survival.|
|Where have you gone,
besmedroshim and shtibls of Tarnogrod?
I came over hills and dales
To seek you out.
You search in vain.
My hallowed shul:
Listen to me, you who once prayed here,
The Nazi horde tried to burn me
They looted my chandeliers,
I stand here like a gravestone, a monument.
|Lift up your eyes
and raise your strong, firm hand.
Enough of bowing your head
in the strangers' land
Here in the diaspora
That is where our home is,
There we will plow and sow,
Copy of original letter, written in Polish, From P. Goldhar to The American Joint Committee in Warsaw (translation on page 357). Courtesy of The Joint Distribution Committee Archives.
by Eliezer Teicher
Translated by Miriam Leberstein
Written during my last visit to Tarnogrod, in 1949
|Where have you gone,
study houses and shtiblekh of Tarnogrod?
I've come over hilltops and ditches
to search for you here.
You will search in vain.
My holy shul
Listen, you who prayed here,
The Nazi gang did their best
They robbed me of the candlesticks and Torah crowns
I stand here like a gravestone, a monument.
|Lift up your eyes,
Steady your hand.
Enough of bowing down to others
in the stranger's land.
Here you still live in exile.
That is where our home is,
There we'll plow and sow
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