Yiddish: Tornev, Torne, Tarna
The centre of Tarnow is one of the prettiest historical urban
complexes in Poland. Its most precious monuments are: the 14th-century
Town Hall, remodelled by J.M. Padovano in the second half of the 16th
century (now the District Museum); the late Gothic cathedral church of
the Nativity of the Most Holy Virgin Mary, ca 1400, later extended, with
extremely rich interior decor and furnishings; the houses (16th-19th
centuries); the remnants of the city walls (14th-16th centuries); the
canonries from the first half of the 16th century (including the
Mikolajowski House, now the home of the Diocesan Museum containing an
interesting gallery of Gothic sculpture); the former Bernardine church
from 1468, remodelled in 1823, now containing a historical exhibition;
the former Bernardine nunnery from the 17th-18th centuries (now
converted into a monastery); the ruins of the Tarnowski castle from
1340, situated on St Martin's Hill; the mausoleum of General Józef Bem
in the city park. Numerous historical monuments can also be found in the
suburbs: the mansion houses (18th-19th centuries) as well as the
18th-century palace (Gumniska); the 15th-century wooden church of the
Most Holy Virgin Mary (na Burku), and the church of the Holy Trinity
from 1562, also wooden (na Terlikowce).
Tarnow once had one of the largest Jewish communities in the
Malopolska region. First accounts of Jews settling here date from 1445.
They were probably merchants trading in grain and wine. Initially the
Tarnow community was abranch of the Cracow kahal. In 1581, the owner of
the town Konstanty Ostrogski granted the Jews the privileges of trade
from stalls, homes and on the marketplace, as well as of the production
and sale of alcoholic beverages. Economic freedom was the main factor
attracting Jews to the town. In the 18th century their number exceeded
one thousand, which was more than 30% of the local population. They had
several representatives in the Diet of the Four Lands. Towards the end
of the 18th century new movements appeared: Chasidism (the influence of
the Halberstam and Horovitz dynasties) and the Haskalah. In 1788, the
first lay Jewish school was opened here thanks to the financial support
of Naftali Herz Homberg.
At the outbreak of the Second World War, 25,000 Jews lived in Tarnow
(48% of the local population). The Nazis created aghetto for 40,000
people and from here they deported their victims to the concentration
camps in Belzec, Plaszow and Auschwitz. After the Second World War,
asmall group of refugees from the former Polish eastern borderland
territories settled here, but with the passing of time they slowly
disappeared as aresult of several waves of emigration.
The history of Tarnow Jews seemingly came to an end in 1993, when
the last caretaker of the house of prayer (ul. Goldhammera) passed away.
The synagogue's furnishings were moved to the Regional Museum and the
keys transferred to the Jewish community in Cracow. Landsmanshaftn of
Tarnow Jews operate today in France, Israel, Canada and the United
The Jewish quarter stretched over the north-eastern part of the
centre. The district of Grabowka was the area inhabited by Chasids. In
1833 the Jewish community applied to the municipal authorities for
permission to extend their area of residence. Permission, however, was
not granted. Therefore, aproposal was made to build "atruly Jewish town"
outside the city walls. The project never materialised, but several
buildings which bore testimony to the concept were erected. In
particular the New Jubilee Synagogue (built between 1865 and 1908),
which no longer exists, and the ritual bath (built in 1904 in Moorish
style), which still remains.
The Market Square
On the doorframe of house No 21 one can still see the indentations
where the mezzuzot used to be. The building now houses the Tarnów
District Museum (phone +14 6212149), which has an interesting collection
of Judaica. The original privilege document from 1667 and three scrolls
of the Torah as well as documents and photographs from the last Tarnow
synagogue (closed in 1993) are its most precious exhibits. The Market
Square is also aplace of Jewish martyrology. From 11 to 19 June 1942 it
was the arena for the first act of murder of 10,000 local Jews. For the
Jewish Landsmanshaftn these dates are days of remembrance. In 1997
acommemorative plaque in honour of the victims of the tragedy was
erected on the corner of ul. Zydowska; the pavement there having been
sanctified with their blood.
From the Market Square walk along ul. Zydowska (Jewish Street). Many
17th and 18th-century tenement houses with typical narrow entrance
halls and front walls still remain. You will easily spot the iron
display windows which belonged to former shops. On the left-hand side of
ul. Zydowska you will also see an enclosure made of iron bars (from
1900) and aspacious square behind it. Towering above it is the only
remaining part of the oldest Tarnow synagogue.
The Bimah of the Old Synagogue
The Old Synagogue, almost certainly dating from the beginning of the
17th century, stood here until the outbreak of the Second World War. It
was on the site of an even older synagogue built sometime before 1581.
The Old Synagogue was burnt down in November 1939 and then demolished.
Only the bimah survived. You can still see some remains of the floor as
well as of stucco decorations crowning the columns. Traces of the fire
are still visible.
In 1987 the bimah was covered with aroof in order to protect the monument from the weather.
Ul. Zydowska, a square on the left between the market square and the little turning to the right.
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The mikvah was built in 1904 in Moorish style, much in vogue at that
time. The plans were drawn by F. Hackbeil and M. Mikos. During the
Second World War this building witnessed particularly tragic events, as
it was turned into atemporary concentration camp for prisoners awaiting
deportation to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Some of the most eminent Tarnow Jews
of the pre-war period passed through here, including Maksymilian
Rozenbusz, the headmaster of the Hebrew High School; Jakow Szwarc,
industrialist; Emil Wider, attorney; and also a distingushed geographer
Zdzislaw Simche, a Catholic. Not one of them survived. They became the
first victims in the history of the Auschwitz death camp. Both the
memorial situated here and the very name of the square (The Square of
the Prisoners of Auschwitz) pay homage to the victims of racism. For
many years after the Second World War the mikvah was used as apublic
bath. Later, after an overhaul, it was turned into adepartment store.
Plac Wiezniow Oswiecimia.
Ul. Goldhammera (Goldhammer Street)
Elias Goldhammer (1851-1912) was the son of a tailor from Dynow. He
graduated in law from the Jagiellonian University in Cracow and then
settled in Tarnow, where he later became deputy mayor. He was
adistinguished orator and attorney specialising in penal law. When
Goldhammer passed away in 1912, the City Council of Tarnow decided to
honour this great man by naming the most Jewish street in the city after
The easiest way to get here from the main square is via ul.
Piekarska, Plac Rybny and ul. Rybna. Ul. Goldhammera contains several
places of interest. In house No 1, on the first floor, there was
Tarnow's last beth ha-midrash (house of study), which functioned until
1993. There is not much left to see nowadays. The aron ha-kodesh, the
bimah and the benches were moved to the Regional Museum at Rynek 21. The
next building, at ul. Goldhammera 3, is Herman Soldinger's hotel
designed by I. Apperman and erected in 1904. After the end of the Second
World War, this is where the Jewish community of Tarnow had its offices
and house of prayer. The later fate of Soldinger's hotel is the story
of the collapse of this prestigious establishment, once advertised in
old Austrian-Hungarian guidebooks. At first it was turned into ahotel
called Leliva and then converted into headquarters of the regional
committee of the Communist Party. At ul. Goldhammera 5 there is an
eclectic 1890 edifice of the Credit Bank for Trade and Industry. In its
hallway you can still see plaques commemorating the founder of the
building Herman Merz, chairman of the Jewish community, as well as the
eminent deputy mayor Elias Goldhammer himself.
The Site Once Occupied by the New Synagogue
The New Synagogue on the corner of ul. Nowa and ul. Warynskiego was
opened on 18 March 1908 (the birthday of Franz Josef, the Austrian
Emperor). This is how it got the name "Jubilee Synagogue", and even the
"Franz Josef Synagogue". Photographs taken before the Second World War
show its imposing dome. Set on fire in 1939, for along time it resisted
attempts by the Nazis to destroy it, until they finally managed to blow
it up with explosives. The place where the synagogue once stood was
honoured with acommemorative plaque in September 1993. Its only
remaining element, asingle column, can now be found in the Jewish
cemetery, where it forms part of amemorial.
The Jewish Cemetery
The Jewish cemetery in Tarnow, comparable with those of Cracow, is
one of the oldest and most interesting cemeteries in southern Poland. It
was established beyond the historical boundaries of Tarnow in the
second half of the 16th century. Its several thousand gravestones from
the period between the 17th and the 20th centuries are situated in an
area of 3.2 hectares. Among them there are the tombs of the most
important Jewish families of Tarnow: the Aberdams, the Brandstetters,
the Maschlers, the Merzes and the Szancers. Many local rabbis are also
buried here: Samuel Shmelke Horovitz (d. 1713), Yitzchak Ayzik (d.
1756), Eliezer ben Yitzchak (d. 1811), Izrael Rapaport (d. 1881), Abele
Sznur (d. 1917) and Mayer Arak (d.1925). In the eastern part, behind
aconcrete wall, there is the resting place of Arie Leib, son of Ezechiel
Shraga from Sieniawa, the great tzaddik from the Halberstam dynasty.
This tomb is visited by pious Chasids belonging to the groups from
Bobowa and Nowy Sacz. There are also the graves of over 50 Jewish
soldiers from the Austrian army of the First World War. From April 1942
to November 1943 many cases of mass murder took place at the cemetery.
In 1946, a memorial designed by Dawid Beckert in the form of abroken
column, which in sepulchral symbolic representations means atragically
interrupted life, was built over one of the local collective graves. The
inscription inspired by abiblical text was taken from the poem by Chaim
Nachman Bialik Be-ir ha-harega (In the City of Slaughter) written after
the 1903 pogrom in Kishinev. It reads: "And the sun shone and was not
In 1991 the original wrought-iron gate was taken to the recently
established Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington and replaced with
The Jewish cementery of Tarnow, photo
The crossroads of ul. Sloneczna and ul. Szpitalna, entrance from ul.
Szpitalna. The key is available in the house opposite the gate. If no
one is there, the key can also be obtained from the doorman at the
District Museum at Rynek 21 (available 24 hours aday, knock on the
window; a 15 zl deposit is required).
Other Monuments of Jewish Culture
There are many more places in Tarnow which in one way or another are
connected with the local Jewish community. A detailed description is
contained in the book Tarnowskie Judaika (The Judaica of Tarnów) by Adam
Bartosz. Those worth a particular mention are the following: the old
people's home and hospital (ul. Matki Boskiej Fatimskiej 25); the Bund
headquarters, the B. Michalewicz Workers' House (ul. Ochronek 22) and
the former Krzak and Szpiller suitcase factory situated next door; the
orphanage (ul. Mostowa 14, now a kindergarten): the Talmud Torah (ul.
Sienna 5, now a school for nurses); the Henryk Szancer steam mill dating
from 1846 (ul. Sienna); the baron Hirsch Foundation Public School, now
the fine arts school; the empty site of the Tempel Reform synagogue and
the neighbouring school of the Safa Berura Society (ul. Sw. Anny 1, now a
boarding school). In ul. Lwowska there are a few old houses which once
belonged to wealthy Chasids.