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[Pages 350-352]

The Beginning of the End

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 [Korch—w]. 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.

[Pages 353-356]

The Testament of Shmuel Peretz Shprung

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…[1] 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.


Translator's Footnote

  1. Phrase unfinished in text. Return

[Pages 357-364]


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.


Translator's note:

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
Jewish Self-Help

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.

(________) signature illegible

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.


Community Kitchen

Total for the period January to June

Lunch distributed to adults
Food served to children
Number of adults served
Number of children served


Hygiene And Medical Services

Total for January-June

  1. Doctor visits
  2. Medications
  3. Clinic treatments
  4. Inoculations
  5. Baths
  6. Haircuts
  7. Soap
  8. Laundry
Average number of recipients of health services: _______ persons
Other services ___________
Housing assistance -- Number of recipients: --- persons
Financial assistance -- Number of recipients: 850 persons
Dry food products -- Number of recipients: 478 persons
Distributed 2925 kilograms of dry products
Distributed 6 clothing and underwear [sic]

Tarnogrod, November 2, 1941


Members: Y. Brezel
Bookkeeper: Y. Kahan



Krakow, January 1941
Number 291 A
400/ ?4

To: Jewish Aid Committee
of the Judenrat in Tarnogrod

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.

American Joint Committee
(Signature not legible)


Report of the Social Assistance Program
For the period from March 20 to June 30, 1941

Place: Tarnogrod County: Bilgoraj District: Lublin
Closest postal office -- Tarnogrod
Name of Institution: Jewish Social Self-Help, Tarnogrod Branch
Total number of Jewish residents: 2730
Total recipients of assistance: 450

1. Report of the Treasury
Semi-Annual Treasury Activity

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
  4848   zlotys     476.5  
June 30, 1941 83.5  


Jewish Social Self-Help Branch in Tarnogrod

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,
Submitted July 3, 1941
No. 6174A



For the Period from December 1, 1939 to June 30, 1941

  1.   Before the War Now
    Number of Jews 2515 2730
    Merchants and shopkeepers 220 ---
    Tradesmen 150 90
    Laborers 100 600
    Free professions 2 ---
    Unemployed 50 300

  2. Number requesting support: ______ Receiving support: ________
  3. What institution takes care of social needs?
    The branch of Jewish Social Self-Help organization in Tarnogrod
  4. Who provided the funding and in what amount?
    The presidium of the Jewish Social Self-Help organization. 500 -- 11.4; 500 -- 20.3;
    750 -17.6; 500 - 13.5; 500 -- 13.4; The Judenrat in Tarnogrod - 600.
    What gifts received, from whom and how much?
    From Self-Help organization - 20 kilos oil, a barrel of herring, 25 kilos of marmalade, 20 kilos pork fat, 6 pairs shoes and medicine.
  5. In what form was the aid distributed?
    In the form of money, dried goods and clothing.
  6. Is there a hospital? An ambulance service? Who is in charge? Number of patients treated?
  7. Who is responsible for child protection? For emigrants? For invalids?
  8. Number of Jews working in labor camps?
    350. Outside the town? 350 in 1940.
  9. How much was spent for this purpose?
  10. How many tradesmen run their own workshops?
    Which trades predominate?
    Shoemakers and tailors
  11. How many Jewish owned enterprises are there?
  12. Received by Self-Help: 4943 zlotys; Disbursed:4765.
    What was the source of the monies disbursed?
    Voluntary contributions
    Do there exist exceptional expenses for Self-Help and what are they?
  13. What food resources were reduced and by how much?
    Only bread (50%) and sugar (50%.).
    Which foods were not received at all?
    Marmalade, flour, honey butter etc.
Jewish Self-Help in Tarnogrod
Ch. Teicher


1 From the Town       600     600
  a) Judenrat       667.5   102 769.59
  b) Donations              
  c) Payments for lunches              
  d) Payments for social assistance              
  e) Payments for monetary aid         50   50
  f) -------------              
  g) -------------              
2 External Sources of Aid              
  a) Joint Committee and others              
  b) TOZ              
  c) CENTOS              
  d) Jewish Self-Help   50 500 1000 500 750 2750
  e) Sale of herring       679 679
  TOTALS   50 500 1000 1229 852 4848.5
Food & Kitchen         1272.3 84 1356.3
Child nutrition            
Monetary aid     1362.6 524.65   657.55 2574.8
Transport             165
Sanitation         157.5   249.75
Children's & Orphans Inst              
Investments and Repairs     102.7   57.75   150.45
Refugees from Goraj         260   260
Old Age Homes              
Administrative Expenses         8.7   8.7
TOTALS         2445.9 853.8 4765


Statistics of Social Assistance

(Average number of people monthly)

Applied for Aid   1120 600 600 675
Received Aid   850 599 450 600


Poems by Eliezer Tayber

Written during my last visit to Tarnogrod in 1949

The Besmedroshim of Tarnogrod

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.
The murderers have destroyed everything.
No trace remains of us
on this cursed soil.

My hallowed shul:
It's a wonder that you remained standing.
I've just now gathered the small stones
that lie strewn around you.

Listen to me, you who once prayed here,
when I explain how I survived.
No one must know this
but the Creator himself.

The Nazi horde tried to burn me
To destroy me and scatter my ashes
But my four thick pillars
saved me from this fate.

They looted my chandeliers,
the crowns and curtain of the Torah ark,
and my greatest treasure,
the tens of Torah scrolls.

I stand here like a gravestone, a monument.
No one hears my weeping, my laments.
There's no one left to say kaddish inside
My crumbling walls.


Home to Zion

Lift up your eyes
and raise your strong, firm hand.
Enough of bowing your head
in the strangers' land

Here in the diaspora
you labor for the stranger.
Go to the east, to its shores and harbors,
to where the flag is blue and white.

That is where our home is,
where the earth is sacred.
There we will build with brick and mortar.
There we will live in peace.

There we will plow and sow,
harvest and gather,
and bind the sheaves
with ropes of straw.



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.



[Pages 365-366]

The Study Houses[1] of Tarnogrod

by Eliezer Teicher

Translated by Miriam Leberstein

Written during my last visit to Tarnogrod, in 1949

Where have you gone,
study houses and shtiblekh[2] of Tarnogrod?
I've come over hilltops and ditches
to search for you here.

You will search in vain.
The murderers destroyed us all.
Not a trace of us remains
On this cursed ground.

My holy shul
it's a wonder you're still standing.
I've now gathered together
small stones that lay near you.

Listen, you who prayed here,
and I'll tell why I'm still standing.
No one can know this
but the Creator himself.

The Nazi gang did their best
to knock me down, to burn me
But my four thick pillars
prevented my destruction.

They robbed me of the candlesticks and Torah crowns
and the curtains of the Torah ark.
And they took my greatest treasure –
dozens of Torah scrolls.

I stand here like a gravestone, a monument.
No one hears my weeping, my lament.
Within my walls there's only silence
No one's left to say Kaddish.[3]


Home to Zion

Lift up your eyes,
Steady your hand.
Enough of bowing down to others
in the stranger's land.

Here you still live in exile.
Enough of slaving for others.
Go east, where the flags wave blue and white
on the shores and harbors.

That is where our home is,
there is holy ground.
There we'll build with clay and brick.
There we'll live unharmed.

There we'll plow and sow
and cut and bind,
wrapping straw around
the sheaves of grain.

Translator's Footnotes:

  1. The Yiddish word translated as study houses is bote-midrashim, plural of besmedresh, literally “house of study.” The besmedresh in the shtetl served not only as a place for study of the Torah, but also as a house of worship, as an alternative to the synagogue. Return
  2. Shtiblekh is plural for shtibl, a small (often one-room), modest house of worship, especially for Hasidim. Return
  3. Prayer for the dead. Return


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