[Yiddish: Tarnov, Tornev, Torne, Tarna] - A
town in the Malopolska voivodship. Tarnow was granted its town charter
around the year 1330; remaining in private hands until 1787, it was the
property of the Tarnowski, Ostrogski and Sanguszko families.
Situated along the route to Rus' and Hungary, Tarnow began
developing as a center for the grain and wine trades in the fourteenth
century. It also functioned as an economic center for the magnates'
holdings. Jewish settlement was noted as early as 1443. The Tarnow
Community was probably an affiliate (przykahalek) of the one in Krakow,
with which it jointly paid the coronation tax in 1507.
In 1581, Konstanty Ostrogski granted the Jews a privilege that later
owners confirmed several times, for example in the years 1637, 1670 and
1684. On the basis of these documents, they could sell all manner of
goods from their homes and stalls, as well as at the market. They were
also allowed to distill alcohol and have liquor licenses.
The Jewish community in Tarnow grew quickly, as the demands of the
clergy to limit the influx of Jews into the city demonstrate. By the
early seventeenth century, the gmina already had a cemetery and
synagogue. The city was seriously damaged during the wars of the
mid-seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, which led to economic
After the first partition of Poland, Tarnow was
part of the Austrian partition, and in 1787 became part of government
land holdings. Towards the end of the eighteenth century, Chasidim and
the Haskalah (Jewish Enlightenment) had a strong following in Tarnow. In
the nineteenth century, the city became one of Galicia's
fastest-growing economic centers. In the mid-nineteenth century, it
gained rail links to Krakow and Lwow. Factories producing agricultural
implements and glass were founded. In 1910, an electrical energy plant
The population grew rapidly, including the Jewish population. In
1830, there were approximately 1,200 Jews living in Tarnow (34% of the
total population); by 1890, this number had grown to 11,400 (46%).
From the late nineteenth century, political groups were active in
Tarnow-primarily Zionist organizations that were preparing their members
for emigration to Palestine. During the interwar period, Tarnow was
still the district (powiat) seat and remained an important economic
center. The machine, chemical, food and clothing industries grew. In
1939, the city had a population of 52,000, of which 25,000 were Jews
(48% of the total population).
When the Second World War broke out, Germans
occupied the city and concentrated the Jewish population in designated
parts of the city in March 1941. In February 1942, the Germans created a
ghetto in those areas. A total of 40,000 people were moved there,
including Jews from nearby towns, as well as Jews from the Czech lands
and the Reich. The residents of the ghetto were deported gradually
during the summer and autumn of 1942 to the death camp in Belzec. The
ghetto was liquidated completely in September 1943, when approximately
2,000 people who were fit to work were deported to the labor camp in
Plaszow; the remaining 8,000 residents were killed in Auschwitz. Several
hundred Jews remained in Tarnow as workers until early 1944.
A small group of Jews settled in Tarnow after the Second World War.
Jews from Tarnow maintain organizations in Israel, the USA, Canada and
France. A fragment of the bima (pulpit) of the Old Synagogue has
survived in Tarnow, as well as a mikva (ritual bath house) built in the
Moresque style, a cemetery with gravestones from the seventeenth
century, and the Jewish hospital.