[Page 315, Volume 2]
What Remained of Our Jewish Tarnow
by Yosef Kornilo
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
On the 18th of January of this year , it is twentythree 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 or 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 provided in the first volume, as well as here in the second volume, of the Tarnow Yizkor Book.
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 we saw nonJewish faces looking out of the windows of the houses on the Zydowska (Jewish) Street. They were undisturbed by the circumstances that found them living in this quater, entirely Jewish for hundreds of years and once full of 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.
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.
Standing from the left: Adler, Blajwajs, Aszer, Magister BirkenKrisztal, Betribnis, Szifer, Magister TirkelKlapholc, 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 EretzYisroel.
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 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.
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, huge, manystoried housing blocks were erected, also in the entire area of the square where the houses of the Jewish kehile [organized Jewish community] and Devora Menkes synagogue stood… Only 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 shoemakercobbler'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 nonJewish workers were once 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 SafaBerura [clear language] school, the Yavne [religious Zionist] school, of the merchant's school, the TalmudTorah [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. Michalewicz remained undamaged.
How much toil and superhuman effort and sacrificial work went into the building of the Hebrew folksshul [public school] and SafaBerura gymnasia [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 prewar Tarnow.
And how difficult it was to accumulate the necessary sum of money, to
buy the magnificent building of the former Baron Hirsch school at Topolowa Street in Tarnow for the Mizrachi [religious Zionists] school, Yavne.
Today there is a municipal technical school for plastic…
Years passed until the TalmudTorah 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 TalmudTorah.
And the exemplarily led Agudah BeisYakov [ religious 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 nonJewish institutions.
No trace remains of the large people's library, sefaria amamis,
with its over 10,000 books… The same fate also was met by Jewish FolksBibliotek of PoaleiZion [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.
Members of the managing committee:
Standing from the left: Edward Klapholc, Betribnis and Josef Kornilo
Sitting from the left: Magister BirkenKirsztmal, Magister Tirkel, Szifer
The dedicated activity of the Bundist workers in Tarnow was so extraordinary that they reached their goal and built their own Workers' Home. They named their building after B. Michalewicz and it was situated on Lwowska Street in the center of Jewish workingclass Tarnow, where all Bundist institutions in Tarnow were concentrated… Today, too, there is a municipal institution there.
On a higher level stood the socialcommunal activities in the Jewish neighborhood such as 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 nonJewish hands… Because Tarnow Jewry has been exterminated, annihilated…
From the left: Yakov Taubeles and Michal GutterBergstein
Only one trace of the former effervescent Jewish life in Tarnow remains.
The small handful of Tarnow Jews who today remain in Tarnow have received one divided room in the building of the former Hotel Soldinger on Goldhammer Street, in which is concentrated all of Jewish life in Tarnow today.
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 Gutter Bergstein known as Mekhl, who took upon himself the task of caring for the religious needs of the few Tarnow Jews who live in Tarnow today he stands out with his particular devotion, and he does not let 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 in the Tarnow cemetery at the monuments that stand at the mass grave of 20,000 martyrs and in the nearby town of Zbylitowska, in the Buczyna forest, at the grave of over 800 Jewish children.
A rare Jewish monument is also present in Tarnow… The Bima with its four columns remains at the location of the Old Synagogue on Zydowska Street… It is gated in and surrounded by a small garden… This Bima, a sort of monument for the annihilated Jewish community in Tarnow, is also on the list of memorials in Tarnow, which is cared for by the Tarnow city managing committee.
Aharon Szporn, Montreal - Canada
Translated by Mark Alsher
About the rise of the Bund in Tarnow, about its political, professional and social-cultural activity, about its leaders and the active builders of this very important Jewish workers movement and about its significant influence on the Jewish street in Tarnow, this writer has already written in detail in the first Yizkor book from Tarnow which appeared in Israel in the year 1954.
And when, in the period of the Nazi extermination actions, Tarnow Jewry was cruelly destroyed, and the glorious Jewish settlement in Tarnow was totally erased, physically and spiritually there also remained no memory of the local so very colorful Jewish political life, with all of its political movements, with all of the cultural and social-communal institutions.
But soon after Tarnow was liberated from the Hitleristic savage claws the need to call the former political movements to life on the ruins of the Jewish settlement in Tarnow was immediately awakened among the small group of Tarnow Jews who came out of the forests and various other hiding places.
A lively activity with the goal of creating the basis for a new Bund organization in Tarnow was displayed by a group of survivors of Bund activists from before the war. The first consultation for that purpose took place in the home of Comrade Asher Bleiweiss (today in New York) with the participation of this writer and several other comrades among whom I recall only the names of Leyzer Roich, Yonah Celler, Yaakov Garnreich and my son, Zalek Szporn.
First of all the necessity of becoming more closely familiar with the activity of the Jewish Committee which was created with the help of the Central Jewish Committee in Warsaw immediately after the liberation was emphasized.
Unfortunately, the economic situation of the Tarnow Committee at that time was met with sharp criticism from the Jewish public.
Thanks to the agreement between the Bund and the Zionist Ichud, at that time the second largest Jewish organization in the city, a harmonious cooperation in the area of social activity for the Holocaust survivors of the annihilated Tarnow Jewry was possible.
The following then belonged to the reorganized inter-party Jewish Committee: Mgr. Kohn and this writer as chairman, Roich as secretary, Blond as treasurer and the members: Asher Bleiweiss, Yonah Celler, Yaakov Garnreich, Lichtbloy, H. L. Shedlisker, David Weiser and Dr. Ignatz Goldfinger. The first accomplishment of the committee was the opening of a public kitchen, where any Jew who was registered in the Tarnow Jewish Committee could receive a lunch at no cost. The meeting place of the committee was in the house located at 1 Goldhammer Street.
The municipal housing office had given the entire building over to the authority of the Jewish Committee and it was therefore possible to open an infirmary there under the direction of two doctors: for adults Mrs. Dr. Bloch and for children Dr. Dintenfass.
A children's home for Jewish children ages three to 15 was also set up in this same house and two teachers were appointed for these several children, one for the Yiddish and the second for the Polish language.
The budget for the Committee consisted of special funds from the Central Jewish Committee in Warsaw. Of great importance was providing housing for every Jew who returned to Tarnow hidden in the forests and bunkers or from Soviet Russia. This writer was especially employed in this work, who, having been a member of the Tarnow town council even before the war, now also represented the Tarnow Jews there and as such he was able to maintain successful contact with the municipal housing office.
As to providing all of the institutions of the Jewish Committee with the required food and other necessities, much was done in that area by
the very active member Asher Bleiweiss who also represented us in the Central Jewish Committee in Warsaw.
The activity of the Jewish Committee in post war Tarnow was not easy. The Tarnow Jews who came out alive from the Nazi hell or who returned from Soviet Russia with the repatriation no longer found their old homes the sight of these Tarnow Jews was terrible in rags and tatters without even a place to stay for the first night. The first and only help they received was from the Jewish Committee.
When I now write memories of the recent past, when the sad state of the few survivors of Tarnow Jewry has demanded great efforts and tireless activity from the various communal workers in the Jewish Committee in Tarnow, I consider it necessary to emphasize the loyal and responsible behavior of the Zionist community leaders who, with complete devotion and seriousness, took on the tasks and work in the Jewish Committee in Tarnow. They always put the interests of the public above their own party interests as had been done in the pre-war Jewish community in Tarnow by the Zionist activists under the leadership of the recently deceased in Israel, the meritorious and universally respected community head Dr. Shmuel Szpan of blessed memory and by the last community head in Tarnow before the Holocaust, may he live long, Dr. Avraham Chomet.
It was only thanks to the harmonious cooperation which predominated in the Jewish Committee that we were able to overcome the incredible difficulties in our assistance activities. With true satisfaction I want to note here that the period of my work in the Jewish Committee in Tarnow in partnership with all of its other members belonged to the most beautiful segments of my communal activity in the Jewish street in Tarnow.
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