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The Jewish Economic
Life in Tarnow

 

Clothing Industry in Tarnow

by Dovid Zayden

Translated by Avi Berg

The author Dovid Zayden z”l wrote this text during the year 1951 – while already in the country. In the year 1952, after long and hard suffering, he unfortunately died, and thereby left his wife a widow and orphaned his two children. Along with his brother, Shimon, who lives in Haifa, Dovid Zayden, before the war, was affiliated with the legendary Confectionery (Clothing) Products in Tarnow. As an employer, he developed great sympathy for the workers whom he employed. He also found time to commit to worthwhile work and, thanks to his vast intelligence, devoted himself to the general Jewish population in Tarnow. After the war, he made Aliya to Israel with his entire family, and here too he exhibited extraordinary warmth and dedication for his brothers from Tarnow, and he took great interest and involvement in their work prior to releasing this Yizkor book. Unfortunately, he did not survive to experience the moment of release of his [Yizkor] book. May his memory be blessed and respected!

The single most standout star of the clothing industry in Tarnow was a woman named Raizel Rubin, a woman with a bright horizon in sales talent, whom originally worked with antiques to be able to support her large family. The antique clothes she used to bring down from Budapest, and in year circa 1860 in Tarnow, she began to arrange purchases of pants and blouses and sold them in Hurt. Her undertaking began to prosper, and in a very short time, she was able to employ her several sons–in–law and sons who greatly profited from this business and were able to support their rapidly growing families. The grandchildren of Raizel Rubin can now be found in Israel and some of them currently lead the clothing industry establishment.

Several years later, the Gebit (sic) initiative overtook several Tarnow firms: Zelig Faust, A. L.

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Steiner, Marcus–David Feld and others, whom have produced better conditions in many states of the Austrian–Hungarian monarchy.

Before the first World War, the leader of the clothing industry was Saul Brändsteatter, who led a factory of modern capability which was legendary for great working conditions and high quality. The Brändsteatter firm was the first firm which began exporting from Tarnow to the Balkan countries – Serbia, Bulgaria, and Turkey.

During the first World War, and also during the Russian occupation, when the enemy shipped all machinery to Russia, and the industry died off, and after the Polish kingdom made their stand, following discussion with several governments, a new era began in the clothing industry that not only supported the concurrence of foreign products, but also, something that was later proven, that they had lower prices and better quality of the goods.

During the establishment of the clothing branch, they began to separate the many branches i.e.: clothes, Triko (sic), shoes, hats, large hats, all kinds of men's and women's wear, processed leather, leather, futter (sic), and everything from simple processed items to luxury articles.

While we're on the subject of the Tarnow industries run by Jewish employers, a big positive in Jewish initiatives, we have to give the award to the clothing industry which didn't need any concurrence from the Polish side,

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even though among some of the Polish government members there were some desires to naturalize the industry branch which has from its inception until its demise – because of Hitlerism – been in Jewish hands.

The Hitler followers have, just like the previous Polish government, tried to naturalize the industry branch, which has, despite many backers, not panned out, and quickly led them to destruction. Even the current Polish government is not about to re–establish the clothing industry in Tarnow, and only the foreign clothing cooperation in Tarnow is being run by Jewish employment and rank. During this writing, Tarnow Jewish Dom counts up to two hundred persons, and more from other cities and states.

Why did the militarized Polish government, which has not hidden its pro–Hitler orientation and which regulated Nurberger laws, still try to regulate the Jewish industry branch? Those who were familiar with the Polish motives were not difficult to answer this question. By a monthly production of 250,000 to 500,000 pieces of material, this branch of industry has employed several thousand employees, by a worth of the production articles which surpassed 2–3 million zlotys per month. From this, the government taxed millions of zlotys annually.

Furthermore, when the clothing industry underwent inner–market saturation, some producers started looking around for exporting options. Upon the initiative of the firm “The Brother's Zayden” (David & Shimon), they established an exclusive partnership with the Border Customs firm “A.N. Dress–export” to arrange for the export of clothing. The following firms – which until then only worked for the inner–city industry – subscribed to the new company: The Brother's Zayden, The Brother's Keller, Zowder & Weinstock, Wurtzl & Daar. The status of the newly established firm was forecast as a positive force in the inner–city market. The partners began taking in so many loyal members into the firm that in a very short period of time, the company “Dress–export” won the European market, and with its many and varied dealings, it started gaining interest from import firms from outside Europe (Rottenfarbandt, Israel, Canada, and more). The financial figures of the firm were exceptional, and after the acquisition of the “Demping–Premies” (sic: Government contracts), the figures skyrocketed even higher to the sums of millions which also helped pad the pockets of the royal government with money from outside the country.

In her international ambition to “grasp” the handle, the Polish

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government also tried its hand at the export business. However; the producers put up a protest. This protest eventually led to the liquidation of this export industry, and this at the time of its greatest growth.

At the same time, other export companies began to sprout, although in a smaller dimension, which also took slices of ‘Dress–Export’.

Prior to the Tarnow clothing industry, there was in the Krakower handlers in Kamer Industry, Dovid Zayden, who was nominated by the government. This nomination allowed him to influence various markets and niches and also enabled him some influence on some product laws. In February, 1939, after entrenching themselves on the Polish–German border due to the Hitler–Ordered dividers, the military attendants of General Staub realized that ‘Monderings– Magazines’ (sic: clothing magazines) are empty, and on this initiative from the Krakower Handles–Kamer, the military ranks interested themselves in the Tarnow clothing industry. After much pressure and many conferences with the author of the law, three Jewish clothing entities were dedicated: The Brother's Zayden, Yosef Katz, and Ganz Hochberg. All three immediately pledged to work for the military by smoothly supplying the various products needed. Each firm individually had to contribute 100.00 military Mondern (sic: clothing) per month.

They took a majority of workers from the Jews of Tarnow, and the mighty military expressed their extreme joy with the contributed materials and work.

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To this particular work, just like the rest of the industries, did Hitler lay waste when he invaded Poland, and after entering Tarnow, they seized all of the completed material and products and machines and shipped them to Germany.

Thus, ended the clothing industry in Tarnow which was all started by a Jewish woman, and over the course of many decades, sustained and fed thousands of Jewish workers.

 

tar1_239.jpg
Shlomo Wurzel z”l

 

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Jewish Economic Institutions

by Dr. Avraham Chomet

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

1. Yad HaRutzim

In addition to the strong organizations of Jewish workers, organizations of Jewish artisans and merchants developed in Tarnow.

The organization of Jewish artisans arose first, uniting in the society Yad HaRutzim [Arm of the Diligent] that was founded in the year 1875 and at the beginning was located in the tailors' synagogue at Wekslarska Street no. 7. The purpose of the society at first was to give material help to its members in case of illness, as well as loans.

The artisans Mic, Gertler and Kamf were among the founders. The first chairman of Yad HaRutzim was Yakov Fajtel, first treasurer –Avraham Psakhie and controller – Henrik Simche, first secretary – Yehezkiel Blutman. To the first managing committee of the society belonged: Zisl Herbst, Hirsh Melinger, Berl Szif, Yankl Vand, Moshe Gostvirt and Leibish Rozenfeld.

On the 10th of January 1892, Dr. Herman Mic, a son of an artisan, a founder of the society, was chosen as chairman of Yad HaRutzim and from that time on began a new era in the development of the union. Younger artisans were elected to the new managing committee, such as: Yizroel Ostrelvil, Shlomo Komet (Chomet) and Vestrajch. From then on, Yad HaRutzim included an even greater number of Jewish artisans and in time became a serious factor representing the interests of the Tarnow Jewish artisans.

After the First World War, the task and competence of Yad HaRutzim grew strongly. The number of artisans also grew, particularly tailors, and thanks to a larger number of artisans who worked at home for the larger clothing businesses in Tarnow joining the union, the number of members greatly grew. However, simultaneously a certain change in the character and

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in the direction of the society took place. While until then, Yad HaRutzim was led by artisans of an older style and bore the character of a philanthropic cooperative, without political expression, now the leadership of the union was held by the fresh newcomers, the artisans and artisans who worked at home, a more politically conscious element who in their youth had gone through a party school in the Bund or in Poalei-Zion [Marxist-Zionists]. Having a more radical position, they could not make peace with the patriarchal relationships that ruled in the organization of Jewish artisans, particularly after at that time one of its leaders, Zelig Braw, who opened his own hat workshop, left the Tarnow Bund and became a member of Yad HaRutzim. As an experienced organizer, he immediately won the trust of the membership and emerged as the head of the society. In 1925 Braw was actually elected as chairman of Yad HaRutzim (Herman Klajnhandler was elected as honorary chairman and Shimeon Lajner as vice chairman). The newly elected chairman, as an ambitious politician, along with still other young managing committee members, was drawn into various political quarrels in the fight for endorsements at the kehile [organized Jewish community] and at the city council. As chairman of Yad HaRutzim, Braw conspired with Dr. Zigmund Zilbiger in the fight against Zionists and Bundists and both used every means to reach the desired endorsements.

Yad HaRutzim strengthened significantly at the time, mainly thanks to the intensive self-sacrificing work of Adam Margulies, the then young artisan activist, who did not spare any effort so that the union would be able to fulfill its tasks that were derived from the defensive struggle of the Jewish artisans for the right to work and for the opportunity for a livelihood. The society also received a new meeting place. Almost every week, readings would take place in the union's club and a campaign even began to build their own house, after which the city hall granted a plot of land for this purpose.

On the 9th of April 1928, at the premises of Yad HaRutzim, a portrait was unveiled of Dr. Herman Mic, the then vice mayor of Tarnow and the former long-time chairman of the society, who had brought great gains for it.

After the political defeat at the kehile [organized Jewish community] and the city council, Zelig Braw left the chairmanship of Yad HaRutzim, which was taken over by the old, very productive P.P.S. [Polish Socialist Party] activist, Maurici Hutter, who was held in high esteem and trust by the artisan groups. From then on, the Yad HaRutzim society entered a self-reliant, politically

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independent phase. Since Maurici Hutter, as a communal activist, achieved much popularity and sympathy among the poor Jewish strata, the position of Yad HaRutzim was strengthened.

In 1935, Yad HaRutzim celebrated the anniversary of its 60-years of existence. The artisans in Yad HaRutzim had built great organizational strength that could not be ignored, particularly in all the elections to the kehile and city council. In all its election activities, Yad HaRutzim went its independent way, with its own list [of candidates] and won a large number of votes, mainly because the chief candidate of the Jewish artisans was Maurici Hutter.

The last general meeting of Yad HaRutzim took place on the 19th of January 1938. A managing committee of the following composition was elected then: Hutter Maurici, Sztajnhauer Hersh, Grinberg Yisroel, Rozenberg Markus, Wajt Ruwin, Ginger Ignac, Zinger Yehezkiel, Grinberg Hersh-Meir, Goldwaser Yakov, Pfenig Adolf, Haber Zigmunt, Grosman Leib, Warawicz Avraham, Feiersztajn Noakh, Klajn Josef, Klajnhendler Herman, Wolwowicz Salomon. Not one of these quiet, honest men survived. All of them perished in a martyr's death during the deportation actions from the Tarnow ghetto.

The tireless Maurici Hutter led Yad HaRutzim until the outbreak of the Second World War. Immediately after the outbreak of the war, he had the opportunity to be with the Germans for several weeks. Then he escaped to Lemberg where he perished at the hands of the Hitlerest murderers.

 

2. Zionist Professionals

The Yad HaRutzim Society encompassed almost all the Jewish artisans in Tarnow without regard for political beliefs. Zionists belonged to the union along with a large number of Jewish artisans who, although they did not belong to Zionist organizations, were sympathetic to the Zionist movement, a result of which the Yad HaRutzim Society did not need to distance itself from Zionism, which included larger circles of the Jewish population. The leader of the Zionist position in the union was the widely esteemed artisan, Shimeon Lajner, owner of a lock workshop, who was vice chairman of Yad HaRutzim for many years and, as an active Zionist, he did not miss any Zionist action. When the idea of immigrating to Eretz Yisroel began to ripen for many artisans, the local committee of the Zionist organization, in order to

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prepare the artisans to immigrate, organized for it; in 1932 it created a union of Zionist Professionals at whose head stood Shimeon Lajner.

A short time later, many members of the Zionist Professionals immigrated to Eretz Yisroel. The first to emigrate was the chairman, Shimeon Lajner (now in Haifa). Then leaving Tarnow on the way to Eretz Yisroel were: Meir Lichtinger (who died after being there several years), Aleksander Shwanenfeld (now in Israel). Similar Zionist artisan organizations following the example of Tarnow arose in other cities of western Galicia and Silesia. Many Jewish artisans who stood distant from Zionist party life were thus activated in the Zionist spirit.

The last managing committee of the Zionist Professionals in Tarnow was elected in 1938 with the following composition: Artur Brig (chairman), Jonasz Shtarkman and Eliasz Zelinger (vice chairmen). Leon Leser (secretary – now in Israel), S. Keller (treasurer and manager of the meeting premises), Boleslaw Shpenadl, Shmuel Rapaport (now in Israel), M. Zajden, Leon Ender (now in America).

 

3. The New Artisans Union

At Yad HaRutzim, which was pulled into the struggle of the political fights, opposition arose that did not agree with the political direction that was represented by the presidium. The opposition demanded neutrality from the society on political questions. It led to the opposition leaving the organization and on the 7th of February 1937 a founding meeting of a separate artisans' union took place. The chairman of the meeting was Hugo Szpiler (now in Tarnow), who emphasized (according to a report by Tygodnik Żydowski [Jewish Weekly] of no. 7 of the 12th of February 1937) that the new union would guard the interests and commercial concerns of the Jewish artisan, would strive to raise the professional and cultural level of the Jewish artisan and would accordingly educate and train the Jewish artisan and the Jewish working young, both professionally and intellectually, emphasizing that the existing artisan society, Yad HaRutzim, is not capable of performing its tasks and cannot fulfil the obligations presented by the present situation of the Jewish artisan.

Elected to the managing committee of the new artisans' union were: Natan Haus, Josef Frisz, Moshe Kach, Herman Szwarcbart, Maks Wajn-

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feld, Yisroel Osterwajl, Dovid Lerfeld. As representatives: Leon Ender, Zigmunt Filersdorf, Shimeon Osterwajl. At the inspectors' commission: Hugo Szpiler, Leon Westrajch, Shmuel Rapaport, Chaim Alban and Ayzak Sztajn. At the organization's court: Ahron Leibl, Shimeon Tenenbaum, Moshe Szehnaug. In addition to Hugo Szpiler and Leon Ender, none of these honest, quiet people survived. Everyone perished as martyrs at the hands of the Hitlerist murderers.

 

4. Merchants and Industrialist Union

Still in the last decade of the previous century [19th century], Jewish merchants in Tarnow were organized in the czytelnia mlodziezy starozakonni (Reading room for the Jewish young people), whose secretary was Josef Hajman, then still a young man. From the beginning, the above-mentioned society quickly developed a cooperative character. At the beginning of the 20th century, a Jewish merchants club was founded, whose chairman over the course of many years was the apothecary, Maurici Adler and the secretary – Edvard Szwager. The society was not accessible for all merchants. Acceptance as a member was dependent upon the agreement of all members of the managing committee. Actually, this was a club for wealthier merchants and industrialists. The activity of the club included readings, entertainments, tea evenings, a library – mainly of German books because the first era of activity of the Jewish merchants' club in Tarnow occurred during the period of Austrian rule.

After the First World War, when anti-Semitic tendencies strengthened in independent Poland and Jewish commerce began to collapse under the burden of the tax laws, which were intensely focused on the economic sectors that were occupied by Jews, a few new tasks were placed before the Jewish merchants' club.

Both at the tax office and at the administrative organs, Jewish merchants had to have representatives and defenders. It was difficult for the Jewish merchant to make sense of the labyrinth of various directives that limited the business rights [of the Jews]. Therefore, the doors of the merchants' union had to be open to all Jews who were in business. Soon, there was a reorganization of the union, which almost all of the Jewish merchants in Tarnow joined en masse. At the beginning, Dr. Zigmunt Zilbiger, who contributed a great deal to the development of the union, stood at the head of the new managing committee. When

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Dr. Zilbiger, during the election to the Polish legislative Sejm, adopted assimilated ways and wanted to take the merchants' union with him, he met with a revolt on the part of the nationally conscious Jewish merchants and he had to resign immediately from the office of chairman.

The widely respected merchant, Josef Hajman, under whose leadership the society reached its highest development and became the strongest economic facility for Tarnow Jewry, was elected as chairman. From that point on, the Jewish merchants' society never abandoned the road of national politics, fighting consistently and courageously for the just demands of the Jewish merchant.

Thanks to the above-average intelligence and complete knowledge of his trade as well as thanks to the respect that Josef Hajman enjoyed, the merchants' union was placed at the head of all Jewish economic organizations. We know the composition of the managing committee in 1929, to which esteemed Jewish merchants belonged, whose activity supported the interests of the Tarnow Jewish merchants with full assistance. Belonging to the managing committee were:

M. Dintenfas, Shmuel Engelhard, Shimeon Fries, Wolf Getsler, Henrik Holender, Josef Hajman, L. Klugman, L. Lichtblau, Dr. E. Rapaport, Zigmunt Flajsher, Avraham Szpilman, Dovid Zajden, M. Szpiro, Leopold Szinagel, Nusan Szenker, A. Taubenszlag, Ayzik Wolach, M. Citronbaum.

The apothecary, Maurici Adler, who benefitted from general sympathy and recognition, was elected the honorary chairman of the society. Maurici Adler died in 1930 at the age of 73. Over the course of many years, he has taken part in the communal life, was councilman at the city council, councilman at the trade court, chairman of the orphan home. Although he was among the last of the Mohicans of the assimilated (he was even treasurer of the Polish Society for the Folks-Shul [public school]), he did not distance himself from Jewry, taking an active part in Jewish communal life.

In 1929 Josef Hajman was elected as chairman, vice chairman – Henrik Holender and Avraham Szpilman, secretary, treasurer – Shimeon Fries, managing committee – L. Klugman and Gdelia Bornsztajn (a dear Zionist, who escaped the Hitlerist claws and came to Eretz Yisroel, where he was killed by an Arab bullet during the war of liberation).

Dr. Zigmunt Zilbiger and his followers founded a new, competing union under the name, Union of Merchants and Industrialists (Zrzeszenie Kupców i Przemysłowców), which actually did not

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have any influence or significance among Jewish merchants in Tarnow. Too strong was the position of the chairman of the Merchants' Union, Josef Hajman, who was esteemed not only by the Jewish society, but also the non-Jewish groups showed him great respect because of his honesty and crystal-clear character. All of the Jewish merchants belonged to the union whose chairman was Josef Hajman and his great service for Jewish merchants was undeniable.

Therefore, in April 1929, the sublime celebration of the unveiling of the portrait of Josef Hajman took place at the premises of the Merchants' Union as an expression of recognition and respect for the meritorious Tarnow community activist.

At this celebration, in which the representatives of the Catholic merchants' group also took part, J. Hajman in his speech declared among other things:

“With sincere joy I greet the delegation from the local Zionist organization, represented by the courageous pioneers and fighters. I belong to them with my heart and soul and I draw energy and strength to my communal work from both the Zionist idea and the Zionist program, as Antaeus did from the mother earth. It is customary that unions and organizations have their flags. Our society does not have a flag, but our invisible flag that we hold high is the flag of honesty and commercial solidarity, the flag of brotherhood and commercial friendship, without distinction as to belief and nationality, the flag of love and gratitude to the beautiful land that we have inhabited for hundreds of years. May the respected slogans be a bright guide for us in our future shared and tireless work to reach a better and brighter future.”
The Merchants' Union faithfully guarded the merchants' interests. The managing committee which consisted of experienced and serious men, worked faithfully and with dedication as much as it was able. They helped the poor, helpless Jewish, abused traders; they intervened in cases when various executive organs would openly break the existing directives and many concessions were fought for on behalf of the oppressed and tortured merchants. First of all, the managing committee made sure that every intervention was made with appropriate Jewish dignity. As a professional organization, the managing committee understood the connection of the interests of the Jewish merchants with Jewry in Poland, in general, and, therefore, they boldly and often supported Jewish national policies. The Union was not Zionist, but the majority of the managing committee consisted of Zionists. The Society of Jewish

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Merchants in Tarnow captured its place among the Jewish population in the city and no action of whatever character could take place without the participation of the society.

The Zionist influence on the Merchants' Union was great. Various types of the assimilated and politicians, bankrupt members of the community and political speculators would often try their luck at the Merchants' Union, but they always failed shamelessly because most of Tarnow's Jewish merchants supported Zionism. Harassments and, often, danger to their simple economic existence brought together the Jewish merchants of Tarnow. They stood firmly on Jewish national soil.

Only a small group of merchants wanted to subordinate the will of the majority. This cluster, led by Dr. Zigmunt Zilbiger, from whom the opportunity to represent the Jewish merchants had been taken away and had, therefore, lost even more influence and importance, began intrigues, defamations and denunciations.

In 1931, the self-confident Polish agents tried with all their strength to destroy the influence of Zionism on the Jews. At that time, it was only necessary to persuade these agents that the Zionists had a decided influence on the Jewish merchants in Tarnow and the fate of the Merchants' Union was sealed.

On the 22nd of August 1931, the chairman, Josef Hajman, was served with a decree that dissolved the Merchants' Society in Tarnow. This decree seems typical of the attitude of that era in Poland in relation to the Jews. We cite verbatim this decree, according to the Tygodnik Żydowski of the 28th of August, 1931:

No 34.– Starostwo Powiatowe [County Administrative Offices] in Tarnow. L. Sz. 137/31. Tarnow, the 20th of August 1931. Merchants' Circle Tarnow. Dissolution. To the Merchants' Society in Tarnow (in the hand of the chairman, Hajman Jozef). – I order that the Wojewódz [Province] official in Krakow with the letter of the 31st of July, 1931 L.B.-34/7, on the basis of paragraphs 24 and 25 of the law of the 15th of September 1867 Dz. Au F. No. 134, to disband the Merchants' Society in Tarnow. Registered under the decree of the 8th of July 1922 L/92703/ex 1922/Pr. Because it was established as the society, registered as apolitical, its area of activity changed, established according to paragraph 3 of the statute, concerned with political matters. Evidence shows the fact that during the Sejm elections last year, not only political gatherings took place in the premises of the society, but that even the election office of one of the election lists was in the premises. The society must use its property in accord with paragraph 14 of the statute. The decision can be appealed to the

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Interior Ministry through the provincial official within 14 days, counting from the second day after receiving the announcement. A possible appeal is not available according to paragraph 87 chapter 4 of the president's decree of the 22nd of March 1928 about administrative action (Dz. Au Z. P. no. 26 item 341), because the public interest does not permit this. Powiat village elder Sakolowski.”

The Jewish merchants in Tarnow strongly protested against this decree. The last managing committee meeting of the profaned society was truly moving. According to the Tygodnik Żydowski of the 22nd of August 1931, number 34, we cite:

“Tarnow Merchants Protest Against the Dissolution of the Merchants' Society in Tarnow
At the news of the dissolution of the 20-year-old Merchants' Society in existence for 20 years by the administrative regime, members of the society gathered spontaneously in order to take part in the last public meeting of the managing committee at which it was necessary to read the formal decree of the provincial official that dissolved this union.

The spacious auditorium of the society was overflowing with members who attentively and earnestly listened to the meeting of the managing committee.

The meeting was opened by the praiseworthy chairman of the society of many years, Josef Hajman, who very movingly read the formal decree of the provincial official, which we provide in another place.

After reading the formal decree, an obvious resentment appeared on everyone's face and a determined protest. Everyone felt that a great unjust sin that would not quickly be corrected, had been done to the Tarnow merchants.

With that, the self-worth and the life interests of the Tarnow merchants were offended. The basis of professional self-governance of the merchants was disturbed and taken away from the rostrum from which the voice of the Jewish merchant in defense of his professional and national dignity had been heard over the course of many years.

With a truly grave-like silence of the assembled, Chairman Hajman continued his speech, which turned to the members of the Merchants' Society:

“Esteemed Gentlemen!

I must read to you the formal decree received from the local village elder (we cite it in another place).

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It should be understood that we must fully respect the decree of the regime.

Our society is thus dissolved and the current meeting of the managing committee is the last and most distinctive.

The respected managing committee members give a hearty thanks for the cooperation for the good of the local merchants who we tried with as much strength as we could to help.

Our society existed for over 20 years. I was one of the few founders and I must confess that I grew along with its existence, giving much time, effort and work to it.

Twenty years – that is a large bit of time and I worked with dedication and love for my brothers in the merchants' branch. Alas, because of my illness, I could not take an active part these last months, but the existence and welfare of the society lay in my heart.

Today, a difficult and unpleasant task has fallen on me to present the decrees from our regime. It is not our task here to criticize the motives that prompted the government organs to dissolve our society. However, I would fail to defend the truth if I did not publicly confess that with every election to the legislative or municipal administrative bodies, our guide, in addition to the motives on behalf of the economic development of the Polish Republic, was also the renaissance of Jewry, its awakening national self-sufficiency and reaching the real equality of Jews in Poland.

We did not sell a pot of lentils to Esau. We followed the law with heart and commonsense, which told us to act in our own way, which never conflicted with the interests of the country whose very devoted citizens we are.

We are not less good citizens of the country than the Jews who at the last Sejm elections voted for the General Jewish National Electoral Bloc and now they enjoy the favor from on high.

Throughout our longtime activity, we did not cast that [our being good citizens] aside. Yet, it would be superfluous to emphasize that no category of population in our country, strove as much as the merchants to maintain calm and order, security and righteousness, because only in that kind of an atmosphere can the merchants live.

The “public interest” about which the decree of our regime speaks, is actually the same as our own interest. Each of us must say Tua res

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agitur[a] [Latin – this is your business] and the long years of activity of our merchants' organization is only an acknowledgement of our striving, is the embodiment of our slogan: one for all, all for one, for the general welfare.

Today, dear friends, we have come together for the last time.

Leaving the premises to which we are connected by the remembrances of many years of joint professional, cultural and communal work, I ask you to think of this, that we are further bound by the spirit of peace and brotherhood, that the commercial conscientiousness and honesty is our invisible flag that we must hold high in the future and our bright guide should be the further development and well-being of the Polish Republic and the renaissance of the Jewish people.”

A long-lasting, stormy ovation was heard after the words; then Mr. Dovid Zajden in warm and cordial words dedicated to the chairman in the name of the managing committee and all of the Tarnow merchants, thanked him for his many years of completely selfless work on behalf of the merchants and expressed the hope that for many, many years, Tarnow merchants would make use of their strength and abilities, swearing that without exception, the merchants would continue to support him with devotion and love.

Next spoke the Messrs Waksman, Erlich, Eichhorn, who in solidarity expressed their unwavering will to continue and, at any cost, to maintain the autonomy of the professional merchants in Tarnow. Then, a strong speech was given by Mr. Wolf Getsler, who did not spare any words of scorn and anger at the action of those among Jewish society as a whole who, for their own private self-interest and profit, dared in a disguised manner to dig a grave for the only true representation of the Jewish merchants in Tarnow.

Finally, at the proposal of a managing committee member, it was unanimously decided to appeal to the highest administrative authorities about the dissolution of the Merchants' Union in Tarnow.

For a long time, the Jewish merchants in Tarnow remained without any professional organization that could guard their interests and this at just the time when they were in a struggle with fiscalism and statism on the part of the then authoritative agents in Poland. Just two years after the dissolution of the Merchants' Union, when the absence of the organization was felt at every step, the previous merchant activists proceeded to found a new society, particularly after the regime organs were persuaded that the people who brought about

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the disbanding of the Merchants' Union actually had no influence on the Jewish merchants in Tarnow. On the 22nd of January 1933, in the auditorium of the Account Society, under the chairmanship of Engineer Karol Szancer, a meeting of Jewish merchants and industrialists took place. After the reading of the statute by Avraham Lajnwand, Wolf Getsler declared that in order to make harassments or the eventual dissolution of the society that was now being created for a second time impossible in the future, the Zionists would not take any active part in the union although they recognized the significance and usefulness of the merchants' organization. Therefore, the following people entered the managing committee: Engineer Karol Szancer, Josef Hajman, Maurici Lion, Henrik Holender, Wolf Getsler, Zigmunt Flajszer, Dovid Baum, Dovid Zajden, Fastrang, H. Hachhauzer, E. Frenkel, Yeshayhu Honig. As representatives: Josef Wajnsztok, Lazar Zelinger, S. Wajntraub, M. Kriszer, Kh. L. Korn, Y. Ormian. To the inspection committee: M. Rozenblaum, S. Dintenfas, Shaul Fiszler. To the honorary court: Maurici Szpiro, Yakov Cwibel, Ahron Rajnhold, Ruwin Waksman and Salo Gelb. The managing committee was constituted in the following manner: chairman – Engineer Karol Szancer, vice chairmen – Herman Flur and Samuel Dintenfas, secretary – Herman Lauterbach. The managing committee immediately proceeded to do the most strenuous work among the widest strata of the Tarnow merchants and industrialists. The work was carried out in a new premises at Legionow no. 4.

Josef Hajman died in December 1937. A deep sadness reigned in the Jewish neighborhood in Tarnow. That the masses of merchants took part in the funeral for Josef Hajman, may his memory be blessed, is evidence of the great sympathy and recognition enjoyed by the devoted and significant communal activist in all strata of the Jewish population.

Josef Hajman was the founder of and the chairman of the merchants' society for many years, councilman on the city council for many years and, for a time, municipal tax court judge, a member of the kehile managing committee and kehile council. He was a managing committee member of the accounting society and chairman of the supervisors' council of the credit union, vice chairman of the association of merchants' unions in western Galicia with its seat in Krakow, correspondent for the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Krakow and examiner at the Bank Gospodarstwo Krajowego [Domestic Holding Bank].

Josef Hajman was an example for all Jews and non-Jews. His crystal-clear character and genteel heart evoked recognition even in groups hostile to Jews, but primarily, love and recognition from the merchants' group, whose spokesperson and supporter he was. He was an honest patriot, always ready in every situation to serve the communal interest. And in addition to all of this – a fervid, proud Jew. Proud of his

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parentage, he never hid it, particularly in the non-Jewish groups with which he very often came in touch because of his professional or communal-political activity. His connection to Jewry, his pride, his deep consciousness of national dignity, his concern about the future of the Jewish people, whose dear son he always was, led him to Zionism out of pure impulses. During his funeral, all of the shops were closed along the route through which his mourning procession traversed, as a sign of great sadness and loss because of the death of Josef Hajman, the man with very good qualities of heart and spirit.

Honor his memory!

The orphaned office of chairman of the Merchants' Union was taken over by the capable and young Zionist activist, Magister [holder of an advanced degree from a university] Henrik Szpilman, for many years a member of the organization of the older Zionist young people. This fortunate and fitting choice permitted the further development of the Union.

In 1938, the Merchants' and Industrialists' Union joined the Union of Confectionary Manufacturers, which from 1926 on had only represented the interests of its members. In July 1928, a reorganization of the Union of Confectionary Manufacturers took place and a managing committee was elected with the following composition: Mendl Daar – chairman (died in New York during the Second World War), Arnold Szwarc (now in Israel) and a tailor – vice chairman, Shimeon Zajden and Wajnsztok (now in Paris) – secretaries, Josef Szwarc – treasurer, Ahron Rajnhold, Szop (now in Israel), Emil Ganz and Gisler -managing committee members. As representatives: Samberg, M. Unger. Organization's court: Shlomo Keller, Pinkhas Templer and Klauzner. The Union had 50 members.

After the confectioners joined the Merchants' Union, according to a decision of the Ministry of Trade and Industry of the 20th of June 1938, the official name of the Union was: Zrzeszenie Kupców i Przemysłowców w Tarnowie [Association of Merchants and Industrialists in Tarnów].

The unified organization became a powerful organization of merchants and industrialists in Tarnow. Its chairman, Magister Henrik Szpilman, did not disappoint the hope placed on him.

On the first anniversary of Josef Hajman's death, the secretary of the unified organization, Dovid Zajden (died in Israel in 1951), wrote in the Tygodnik Żydowski of the 28th of December 1930, no 52:

“We must confess that the abandoned chairman's office of the Merchants' and Industrialists' Union has become worthily occupied and Magister Szpilman, elected as chairman, was exceptionally fitting and fortunate. The unified organization is now taking a great step forward and showing significant development,
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and the fact that over the course of several days Jewish commerce in Tarnow decided to spend the sum of approximately 10,000 zlotes as a voluntary contribution for providing weapons to the army shows the trust of the Jewish community in the person of Magister Szpilman.”
During the German occupation, Magister Szpilman endured the most difficult conditions in Warsaw. During the fight for the liberation of Warsaw, he perished when the city was bombarded. After the liberation, his parents brought his body to Tarnow where he was buried at the Jewish cemetery. This young, capable and extraordinarily intelligent communal activist did not escape his cruel fate just at the moment when the victorious Red Army and Polish Army drove away the frightening enemy. The late Henrik Szpilman left not only his wife and young child but also his mother and father (Avraham Szpilman, the experienced communal activist of many years – now in Tarnow – who were pained by his death. Magister Henrik Szpilman also left behind the surviving handful of Tarnow Jews who were so in need of this significant, energetic, honest and young communal worker.

Honor his memory!

On the 23rd of January 1939, the last managing committee of the Merchants' and Industrialists' Union was elected with the following composition: Shmuel Dintenfas, Sala Gelb, Wolf Getsler, Henrik Holender, Meir Rozenbaum, Magister Henrik Szpilman, Dovid Zajden, Chaim Korn, Maurici Szwanenfeld, Leon Pries, Josef Wajnsztok (now in Paris), Dr. Bernard Teste (now in America), Leib Gersten, Wilhelm Rubin, Yehuda Frajrajch. Representatives: Maks Balzam, Yakov Cymerman, Yisroel Rajch, Lazar Zelinger, Ayzak Kirszenbaum, Feywl Dindas. Inspection commission: Dr. Leopold Szinagel, Bronislaw Nebencal (now in Belgium), Zigmunt Fenichel. Organization's court: Khona Festel (now in Israel), Yehiel Kurc, Yehezkiel Fastrang, Dr. Ayzak Szenweter, Bernard Leib.

The new managing committee constituted itself in the following manner: chairman – Magister Henrik Szpilman, vice chairmen – Henrik Holender, Shmuel Dintenfas, secretary – Dovid Zajden, treasurer – Sala Gelb, manager – Leon Pries.

The new managing committee developed intensive activity and included large groups of Jewish merchants who had to struggle with the extermination politics of the pre-war Polish Sanacia [Jozef Pilsudski's political movement] government and the wild pickets of the Endekes [anti-Semitic Polish National Party] sons. But the main task of the new managing committee was to raise the trade qualifications of the Jewish merchant through the spread of education and mastery of the tax legislation and administration. The Merchants' and Industrialists' Union quickly

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began an ambitious plan of great activity to put together the necessary capital for a fund for urgent aid for the insolvent merchants. This fund simultaneously perpetuated the memory of Josef Hajman, may his memory be blessed.

A permanent secretariat, led by Magister Neugaser, was active in the office of the union and took care of all matters that demanded knowledge of the administrative and tax legislation. The energetic presidium always intervened at the regime organs when it was necessary to support the interests of the Jewish merchant.

Jewish commerce and industry were liquidated in Tarnow along with the liquidation of Tarnow Jewry. All wholesale businesses and storehouses disappeared; there are no longer merchants, shopkeepers and market sellers; no sign of the Jewish workshops and enterprises, which employed hundreds of workers and artisans who worked at home; there were no more Jewish factories. The toil and efforts of Tarnow Jewry over the course of hundreds of years came to naught. They perished along with their entrepreneurs.

 

5. Jewish Cooperative Movement

The cooperative movement among the Jews in Poland began many years before the First World War. In 1901 the General Cooperative Association was founded in Lemberg, which gave rise to the spread of the cooperative ideal among the Jews. Thanks to this association, which limited its activity to the area of eastern Galicia, there then arose many cooperative institutions all over Galicia, which during the First World War went through a difficult crisis and the majority of them were liquidated.

In November 1918 a new era was recorded in the development of the Jewish cooperative movement. In addition, the General Cooperative Association, under the leadership of Dr. Rozmarin, revived its energetic activity and, as the central institution, undertook to propagate and organize cooperatives among the Jews in Poland.

At that time production and consumer cooperatives also arose, as a result of the beginning of self-help activity through the Jewish communal

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organizations, just at a time of great difficulties in providing food and the shortage of raw materials as a result of the war.

Thanks to the help of the Joint [Distribution Committee], consumer cooperatives and workshops, organizations through Jewish political parties arose all over the country. Particularly energetic activity in this area was carried out by the Poalei-Zion [Marxist Zionists] party in western Galicia, creating consumer cooperatives and workshops that eased the food supply for the Jewish population in the largest city centers, for the most part regulated and accessible to the cooperatives – and on the other hand permitted Jewish workers and artisans to join the cooperative workshops.

The Association of Consumer and Cooperative Workshops (Związek Konsumow i Warsztatow Spółdzielczych - ZKiWS) arose in Krakow, led by Shmuel Frajnd, the then Poalei-Zion activist in Krakow.

The purpose of the Association was: bring aid in the form of credit and goods to the individual cooperatives; control and unification of their activity. The Poalei-Zion organization in Tarnow, which during the first years after the First World War until the split in 1920, also was strongly developed; it created the Jewish consumer cooperative, Poalei-Zion, which owned a headquarters at Lwowska Street and a branch in Benyamin Parizer's house at the Pilzner gate. In addition, several hundred members of the working groups and artisans belonged to this consumer cooperative. The leadership of the consumer cooperative was in the hands of the then Poalei-Zion activists, Elihu Zelinger, Henekh Tisz, Alter Bajtcz, Nekhemia Kac (now in Israel), Nakhum Ejnszpruch and A. Chomet. The consumer cooperative provided food items that could not be obtained on the free market to all of its members.

A shoemakers' cooperative was opened in Lion's house on Lwowska Street (in which about 10 Jewish shoemakers worked) for the needs of the Jewish population, which at that time were dire because it was difficult to obtain leather, which the cooperative received through ZKiWS. Henekh Tisz and Pinkhas Glik, the Poalei-Zionist activists, led the shoemakers' cooperative. A hat cooperative was opened in Viktor Girnhut's house at Lwowska led by Yitzhak Sziper and Szpilfojgl (now in Paris).

The Bundist organization also opened its own consumer cooperative (led by Kruger) and a tailors' cooperative. The bourgeois Zionists created a consumer cooperative led by Ignac Holtzapel, councilman at the city council for many years.

While the food cooperatives had the appropriate support

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of the Jewish population, which benefited greatly from this institution, the production cooperatives were offensive to the opposing Jewish artisans who undervalued the communal and economic significance of the cooperatives and saw in them only competition that threatened their workshops, arguing that the cooperatives existed only thanks to the help of the Joint while the artisans lost their work. It even reached the point that Yad HaRutzim, the Union of Jewish Artisans, in Tarnow issued a call to the Jewish population, calling for a boycott of the Jewish cooperatives. Several months later, all production cooperatives were liquidated and only the food cooperatives had a longer existence, but also only until the food supply for the city residents was normalized. When the card system was later abolished for the most important food articles, the consumer cooperatives also were liquidated, leaving it for the Jewish merchants to supply food for the Jewish population.

What is true is that after 1928 (as the official Kleiner Statistisher Yorgang [Small Statistical Volume] of 1939 reports) there were 774 Jewish cooperatives in Poland, including barely 10 agricultural trade cooperatives, four residents' cooperatives, 80 of various character and 680 credit cooperatives. Such a situation more or less remained until the outbreak of the war in 1939.

The development of the Jewish credit cooperatives had its cause in the difficult economic situation in which the Jewish merchants, particularly, found themselves. Bank Polski and Bank Gospodarstwo Krajowego withdrew their meager credit to the Jewish merchants and the private banks so limited it [the credit] that the merchant was forced to seek credit in the private market at high interest. The merchant and retailer were thus left with the alternative of self-help, the way of erecting credit cooperatives.

The main net of Jewish cooperative credit institutions arose in Congress Poland and in the Vilna area under the patronage of the Bank for Jewish Cooperatives in Warsaw. While in this area 400 cooperatives existed, united in the Association of Jewish Cooperative Societies in Warsaw, western Galicia, after the First World War, had only several tens, and Tarnow, only two Jewish credit cooperatives.

In Tarnow, the Jewish Credit Cooperative planted deep roots during its first year. In 1888, the credit cooperative was founded by a group of people under the leadership of Dr. Eliash Goldhamer and Yehosha Maszler; the Account Society, which until the outbreak of the Second World

[Page 257]

War, developed intensive activity by giving its members cheap and convenient credit and also conducted extensive philanthropic and communal activity. The society erected an orphans' home in Tarnow from its own funds and gave significant funds for the Jewish hospital. Over many years, Chaim Najger led the institution and the society carried out particularly diversified and effective activity from the moment when its leadership was taken over by the director, Leopold Szinagel, who with his responsible work raised this credit cooperative to the level of an institution that had a serious and important significance for the Jewish economic circles in Tarnow.

In 1938, the Account Society celebrated its 50th anniversary. In connection with this date, Dr. Wolf Szenkel, a member of the supervisory council, wrote about the significance of this organization in Tygodnik Żydowski:

“The 50th anniversary of the Account Society, one of the oldest cooperative institutions in Poland, occurs during sad and difficult days. There is sincere sadness in our hearts that Josef Hajman, to whom the Account Society owes great thanks and whose name is eternally inscribed with golden letters in the history of this institution, did not live for this distinguished moment. On this anniversary day, we remember with sincere sadness Josef Hajman, who devoted his spirited intellect to communal and economic activity, dedicated his best energy to realize the cooperative ideal among the Jewish population. The Jewish cooperative movement in the person of Josef Hajman lost an indefatigable leader who over the course of many years led, without any material benefits the work of the Account Society with extraordinary devotion and self-sacrifice. The credit cooperative fills an honored function in the battle that Jewish merchants wage in the difficult struggle for their survival. Because certain banks do not distribute any credit to Jewish merchants, they must go to the arena of mutual aid and united Jewish cooperative strength. As a credit institution of a self-help character, the Account Society developed its activity in the spirit of propagating savings among the widest circles of the Jewish population as well as giving inexpensive discounted credit to Jewish merchants and industrialists. The long year, careful and conscientious work under the leadership of the experienced director, Leopold Szinagel, confirmed the trust of the entire Jewish community in the Account Society.”
[Page 258]

tar1_258.jpg
At the 50th anniversary celebration of the Account Society in 1938
The managing committee of the supervisory council

Sitting from the right: Wolf Getsler, of blessed memory, Herman Flur, of blessed memory, Shmuel Wajntraub (now in Israel), Maks Dintenfas, of blessed memory, and Leopold Szinagel, of blessed memory
Standing from the right: Maurici Lion, of blessed memory, Avraham Szpilman (now in Tarnow), Dr. Wolf Szenkel, of blessed memory, and Avraham Yortner (now in Israel)

[Page 259]

The 43rd annual general meeting of the Account Society took place on the 18th of April 1939, at which Director Leopold Szinagel, on the basis of figures, showed the constant development of the society. According to this report, the turnover for the reporting year reached 25,634,728 zlotes. As a result, credit was given in the sum of 5,614,360 zlotes, and the deposits grew to the sum of 632,907 zlotes. The pure profit for the mentioned year reached 13,873 zlotes, of which 3,000 zlotes were dispersed for charitable purposes, for dividends 1,782 zlotes, for remuneration 4,000 zlotes and the remaining sum – 5,091 zlotes – for a reserve fund that reached 71,633 zlotes.

At this, the last general meeting of the Account Society, a new managing committee and supervisory council with the following composition was elected:

Managing committee: Dr. Martshin Bloch, Leopold Szinagel, Avraham Szpilman (now in Tarnow), Shmuel Wajntraub (now in Israel).

Supervisory council: M. Dintenfas, Wolf Getsler, Avraham Yornter (now in Israel), Engineer Lajchter and Maurici Lion.

No trace of the fine and useful institution remains. Leopold Szinagel, the praiseworthy and long-time director of the institution for many years, lived through the most difficult war years in Russia and when he returned to Tarnow after the war, he had as his only purpose, the realization of his ideal, which he had served devotedly for his entire life and had worked for with so much self-sacrifice. In 1949, he came to Israel, where his children had been living for a long time. He felt fortunate and satisfied in his own land. He died suddenly in Tel Aviv in December 1951. The death of this dear and honest Zionist deeply affected the Tarnow Jews who live in Israel.

Honor his memory!

* * *

The Credit Union, which was founded in 1903 from the funds of Baron Hirsch, was also among the oldest cooperative institutions in Tarnow and before the First World War supported the poorest levels of Tarnow Jewry, retail employees and artisans. The Credit Union as a cooperative was supported by the active participation of its members, the smallest retailers, artisans and small factory owners. According to the statute of the union, its purpose was to give loans, of which a member of the Union could make use and in the first rank were those who were in need of funds

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to support their workshops in order to help in the area and to save several hundred families, who would become a burden to society. The reorganization of the Credit Union on a greater scale was carried out in 1925 when at the 25th general meeting of the owner-participants, at which was present, Dr. Zilberszajn, Sejm deputy, executive chairman of Cooperative Bank in Galicia – Josef Hajman, was elected as chairman of the supervisory council, who remained in this office until his death in 1937. Hajman greatly developed this institution. Lawyer Heshl Fiszler was then elected as chairman of the managing committee. In 1928, the Credit Union numbered 650 shareholders with 1,570 shares. In addition, the turnover of capital reached the sum of 70,000 zlotes, with loans given in the sum of 163,000 zlotes.

The Credit Union very quickly became one of the first cooperative institutions supporting almost all Jewish retailers and artisans in Tarnow with small loans. Of great help in this was the director, Bronislaw Nebencal (now in Belgium), who achieved a great deal in the development of this economic institution. At the general meeting that took place in February 1931, Director Nebencal reported that in 1930, of the broad number of 331 Jewish artisans in Tarnow, 201 made use of credit at the Credit Union.

The report of the last general meeting that took place on the 24th of July 1938 gives evidence of the significance and importance of the Credit Union. One hundred and nineteen members took part; the chair was held by Maurici Szwanenfeld. Director Nebencal confirmed to the above-mentioned meeting that in 1937 there was a clear profit of 3,863 zlotes, of which 1,800 zlotes were designated for cultural-communal purposes. If we take into account that in 1938 the Union employed several employees and that the loans given out were taken with minimal interest, reaching such a profit after an entire year of activity was a great success and provides evidence about the robustness of this institution.

This important economic institution was annihilated with Tarnow Jewry.

* * *

In addition to the two above-mentioned credit cooperatives, there was a Cooperative Society for Mutual Credit in Tarnow whose task it was to give its members favorable credit. This cooperative, founded in 1930, was led by

[Page 261]

one of the founders and directors, Chaim Aberdam, the dedicated Orthodox activist and communal worker, particularly in the area of the Tarnow Jewish kehile [organized Jewish community] and Ayzak Szenweter, devoted Mizrakhi [religious Zionist] activist, as well as Josef Maszler, whose experience in the bank system he gave in service to the above-mentioned institution. It quickly became an important credit institution for Jewish merchants and industrialists, particularly during the last years before the Second World War when the anti-Semitic extremist politics prevented the Jewish economic circles from having access to the government banks. At the general meeting of 1931 (under the chairmanship of Shmuel Hulles), Josef Maszler was chosen as chairman of the managing committee. According to the report for the year 1930, the pure profit of the cooperative society reached 20,343 zlotes, which immediately gave proof of the magnificent development of the institution. In 1937, the institution reached a profit of 35,427 zlotes, from which it gave dividends and [made contributions] for cultural-communal purposes (Gmiles Khesed [interest-free loans], Keren Kayemet l'Yisroel [Jewish National Fund], Keren Hayesod [the Foundation Fund] and others) in the amount of 17,888 zlotes and the remaining money – 17,539 – was placed in a reserve fund, which that year reached 323,767 zlotes.

In 1937 Shmuel Hulles was elected as chairman of the supervisory council. It must also be underlined that thanks to the efforts and expenses of the Cooperative Society for Mutual Credit, a tea hall [was opened] in a separate premises at Pod Dembes Platz [Under the Oaks Square], which would provide tea and bread every winter to whoever asked for it.

No trace remained, too, of this cooperative, which employed many people. All of the directors, the members of the supervisory council and all the members of the Cooperative Society for Mutual Credit were murdered by the Hitlerist murderers.


Original footnote

  1. It is for your sake – (from Latin) – (Ed.) Return

 

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