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[Page 315, Volume 2]

After the Holocaust

 

What Remained of Our Jewish Tarnow

by Yosef Kornilo

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

On the 18th of January of this year [1968], it is twenty–three years since the Soviet Army liberated Tarnow and ousted the Nazi occupiers During the first year after the liberation, a handful of Tarnow Jews who survived in the bunkers, with Christians, in the camps and forests and those repatriated from Soviet Russia made efforts to rebuild foundations for a new Jewish life that would be a continuation of the previous Jewish existence and way of life in Tarnow.

Details about the difficult and conscientious activity by the Jewish communal workers in Tarnow in all social, communal and cultural areas on behalf of the impoverished survivors of Tarnow Jewry were given in the first volume, as well as here in the second volume, of the Yizkor Book, Tarnow.

Our task is to provide a picture of life today in Tarnow and to answer the question of what remains today of the former Jewish Tarnow…

*

As is clear, the attempts to build a new Jewish life at a cemetery did not succeed…because nothing of our magnificent Jewish community in Tarnow remained…

The terrible destruction… the deserted, dead, empty streets brought dread with their emptiness…

How bloodied our hearts were when non–Jewish faces looked out of the windows of the houses on the Jewish street undisturbed through chance, in this quarter entirely Jewish for hundreds of years, which breathed with Yiddishkeit [Jewishness, connoting an emotional connection to Judaism and/or to the Jewish people and their history, beliefs and customs].

Therefore, it is no wonder that the few Jews who returned to Tarnow – first took a look at the graves of those closest to them at the cemetery.

[Page 316]

They remained standing by the desecrated graves with tossed and broken headstones. The first task for the Tarnow Jews who returned to Tarnow after years of suffering and wandering was to clean the area of the pile of garbage… Gather the headstones from the sidewalk at the Tarnow streets and return their honor to them.

 

tar2_316.jpg
A group of survivors of Tarnow Jewry at the first Jewish committee in Tarnow after the Holocaust – which was active with collecting and re–erecting the scattered headstones at the cemetery in Tarnow

Standing from the left: Adler, Blajwajs, Aszer, Magister[1] Birken–Krisztal, Betribnis, Szifer, Magister Tirkel–Klapholc, Kornilo, Yosef, (–) Klapholc
Kneeling from the left: Miss Zughaft, Lauber Sz. (–)

 

There was no longer a place for creating new means of existence, for rebuilding economic standing, workshops or branches of trade.

Tarnow Jews began to wander; a large group first went to Lower Silesia, in the former German territory that was taken over by Poland after the war. Simultaneously, Tarnow Jews began to seek ways to join the then strong flow of illegal emigration to Eretz–Yisroel.

In 1947, there still were about 700 Jews in Tarnow, but by 1948 barely 360 Jews lived there. In 1965, 35 Jews lived in Tarnow of them the majority lived in neighboring villages. Of the 25,000 Jews who lived in Tarnow in 1939 before the Holocaust, today, in 1968, only a few families remain.

[Page 317]

tar2_317a.jpg
A group of halutizm [pioneers] from the Ihud [unity] organization in Tarnow on their way to Eretz–Yisroel with the illegal emigration in Austria in 1946

 

tar2_317b.jpg
1947 on Cyprus

[Page 318]

*

The destruction in Tarnow during the German occupation was mainly in the Jewish part of the city, where the Jews lived – particularly where the ghetto was located.

New modern apartment houses have been built in the area of the ghetto. On the spot where the monumental, large new synagogue stood, large, many–storied housing blocks were erected, and in the entire area of the square where the houses of the Jewish kehile [organized Jewish community] and Dwoyra–Menke's synagogue stood… The beautiful building of the mikvah [ritual bathhouse] neighboring these new houses remained untouched during the German annihilation action; it is now used as a municipal public bath institution.

In Tarnow, the buildings of Szancer's mill, of Szwanenfeld's liqueur factory, of the modern shoemaker–cobbler's lasts factory, which belonged to Jewish owners, were not disturbed. The buildings of the confectionary [clothing] factories, such as Kac, Wurcel and Daar, the Braun brothers and other Jewish owners of large confectionaries [clothing] and linen workshops, in which hundreds of Jewish and non–Jewish workers were employed, remained untouched. All production institutions, which were built and developed by Tarnow Jews over the course of generations and in which Tarnow Jewish community took pride remained.

There are no longer any Jewish owners of these now purely “Aryan” factories and enterprises.

*

The buildings in Tarnow of the Safa–Berura [clear language] school, the Yavne [religious Zionist] school, of the merchant's school, the Talmud–Torah [free religious primary school for poor boys] buildings, the Jewish orphans' home, the Jewish hospital and old age home, as well as the house of the Bundist Workers' Home named after M.[2] Michalewicz remained undamaged.

How much toil and superhuman effort and sacrificial work went into the building of the Hebrew folks–shul [public school] and Safa–Berura gymnazie [secondary school], which was the true treasure of the Jewish school system in Galicia. Today, a dormitory for Polish students at the technical mechanic school is located in this building, the fruit of long years of effort by the best Zionist social workers in pre–war Tarnow.

And how difficult it was to accumulate the necessary sum of money, to

[Page 319]

tar2_319.jpg
The building of the Talmud–Torah

 

buy the magnificent building of the former Baron Hirsch school at Topolowa Street in Tarnow for the Mizrakhi [religious Zionists] school, Yavne.

Today there is a municipal technical school for plastic…

Years passed until the Talmud–Torah building was built and with it was created a solid foundation for the existence of a spacious institution, which filled the important tasks in the area of religious education; today a state school for nurses is located in the building of the Tarnow Talmud–Torah.

And the exemplarily led Agudah Beis–Yakov schools [orthodox political party schools for girls]?… Or trade school of Henrik Rausz, the professional head of the accounting courses for many years… And even Professor Bau's music school… All well equipped buildings that are today occupied by non–Jewish institutions.

No trace remains of the large people's library, sefaria amamis,

[Page 320]

tar2_320.jpg
The building of the Workers' Home named for B. Michalewicz

 

with its over 10,000 books… The same fate also was met by Jewish Folks–Bibliotek of Poalei–Zion [Marxist Zionists] with several thousand books… As well as the libraries of HaShomer Hatzair [socialist Zionists] and many other Jewish youth organizations.

What wonderful developments were made in Jewish sport and the gymnastic unions none of which rested until their own stadium was erected with all kinds of gymnastic facilities.

After the war, residences were erected on the wide “Shimshon” playing field and the area of the Bundist organization, the Jutrzenko [dawn] playing field was arranged as gardens for the Christian residents of the city… Today there are various storehouses and warehouses on all of the other Jewish playing fields.

[Page 321]

tar2_321a.jpg
The building of the Jewish orphans' home

 

tar2_321b.jpg
The first Froebel school for surviving Jewish children in liberated Tarnow in 1946

Members of the managing committee:
Standing from the left: Edward Klapholc, Betribnis and Josef Kornilo
Sitting from the left: Magister Birken–Kirsztmal, Magister Tirkel, Szifer

[Page 322]

tar2_322.jpg
The building of the Jewish home for the aged

 

The stubborn activity of the Bundist workers in Tarnow was so extraordinary that they reached their goal and built their own Workers' Home in their own house named for B. Michalewicz on Lwowska Street in the center of Jewish working–class Tarnow, in which all Bundist institutions in Tarnow were concentrated… Today, too, there is a municipal institution there.

*

On a higher level stood the social–communal activities in the Jewish neighborhood, charitable unions, the Jewish hospital, the pavilion for lung diseases, the old age home, the orphans' home and nursery, the various Froebel schools – all institutions on behalf of the Jewish poor in Tarnow… What has remained of all of these very useful institutions?…

Plagued, wrestled by all kinds of difficulties and obstacles until untiring Jewish social workers secured the existence of these institutions…

Today, everything is in non–Jewish hands… Because Tarnow Jewry has been exterminated, annihilated…

[Page 323]

tar2_323a.jpg
During the reading of the parsha [weekly Torah portion] of the week in the small synagogue in Tarnow in 1968

From the left: Jakov Taubeles and Mikhal Guter Bergsztajn

 

tar2_323b.jpg
Members of the Bund in Tarnow after the Holocaust in 1948

[Page 324]

[There is] only one trace of the former effervescent Jewish life in Tarnow.

The small handful of Tarnow Jews who today live in Tarnow have received one divided room in the house of the former Hotel Zoldinger at Goldhammer Street, in which is concentrated all of Jewish “life” in Tarnow today.

 

tar2_324.jpg
The balemer [synagogue platform from which the Torah is read] of the old synagogue

[Page 325]

In addition to the Jewish Committee, a small synagogue is located in this room, in which a small light of former Tarnow Yiddishkeit glows. Among the honest, observant Jews who still live in Tarnow today is Reb Guter Bergsztajn – Mekhl, who took upon himself the task of caring for the religious needs of the few Tarnow Jews who live in Tarnow today – who stands out with his particular devotion, does not let it [the light] go out.

And for this last trace of Jewish Tarnow, the memory of the horrible martyrdom of annihilated Tarnow Jewry is sacred.

At every anniversary of the terrible Nazi slaughter in the Tarnow ghetto, memorial services are held at the memorials that were erected by the Jewish Committee in Tarnow and which symbolize the solitary epitaph of pain and death of Tarnow Jewry at the Tarnow cemetery, [and] at the monuments that stand at the mass grave of 20,000 martyrs, on the Zbilitower [Zbylitowska] Mountain, in the Bucziner forest at the grave of over 800 Jewish children.

A rare Jewish monument is also present in Tarnow… The balemer with its four columns remains at the location of the old synagogue at the Jewish Street… It is locked in and surrounded with a small garden… This balemer, a sort of monument for the annihilated Jewish community in Tarnow, is also on the list of memorials in Tarnow, which is kept by the Tarnow city managing committee.


Translator's Footnotes

  1. A magister is an academic degree given in Poland equivalent to a Master's Decree received after five years of attendance at a university. Return
  2. On the next page, the person for whom the Bundist Workers' Home was named is given as B. Michalewicz. That is the correct name. His given name was Beinish. Return

 

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