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Coat of arms of Tarnów Alternate names: Tornow, Tarnawa Krośnieńska, Turnow, Torne/Tarne [Yid]. 51°55' N 15°09' E, 249.2 miles W of Warszawa. This city in SE Poland with 116,109 inhabitants (urban area 215 000 inhabitants) in 2008 in Lesser Poland Voivodeship since 1999, but from 1975 to 1998  the capital of the Tarnów Voivodeship and a major rail junction, located on the strategic east-west connection from Lviv to Kraków. [July 2009]


Jewish presence in Tarnow is first documented in a court dispute adjudicated in December 1445. A 1498 document mentions the mikvah and rent paid the city for stalls in the market. Their presence suggests a cemetery must have existed in the 15th century. In the mid-16th century, few Jewish families lived there permanently, presumably in the eastern part of the city along ul Zydowska. On May 18, 1670, Alexander Janusza Ostrogsko-Zasławskiego reconfirmed the first privileges issued to the Jews by Constantine Vasyl Ostrogskiego in 1581. Crises for the Jews and the city began in 1648 with the Chmielnicki pogroms and ended with a Swedish invasion in 1655. Owners of the city changed over time from the Ostrogski-Zasławskich family to the Zamoyskis, Koniecpolskis, Radziwills and others. A May 1631 document found in the Historical Regional Museum in Tarnow shows the relationship between the city and the Jews, between Zachariah Lazarowicz and his brother Solomon and the officials enabling their use of the adjoining Podwizdow village cemetery next to a farm for which they paid tax of 8 pieces of gold annually. For the land in the corner of the cemetery, the Jews also paid an annual rent. In 1665, Tarnów was ruined financially when a fire consumed the burghers' houses and the oldest synagogue in the city. In May 1670, Prince Alexander of Janusz Ostrogskiego reconfirmed all the privileges given to the Jews by Prince Constantine Vasyl. A February 1676 statement issued jointly by the city and Stanisław Koniecpolski, Count of Tarnowski, reconfirmed the former Jewish privileges when about 200 Jews lived there. As early as 1772, when Tarnow was within the borders of Austria, Joseph II issued an August 1784 decree requiring transfer of cemeteries throughout Austria to at least 1 km from the central city. This Jewish cemetery was outside the limit and could remain in situ unlike those belonging to the Tarnow churches. In 1775, the fence of the farm neighboring the Jewish cemetery was moved to impede the Jew's customary access, but the City Council required that fence be returned to original location. The Jews still paid rent for that cemetery since the city was entitled to four florens annual rent in 1787 with burial fees apparently dependent on family wealth. Lazara Maschlera paid 5,000 zlotys. Wolf Kohane paid thousands for the funeral of his wife while his funeral cost his heir 2,002 gold. The funeral of Hudes, wife of Israel, cost 1,500. Finally, the council decided on two maximums: 1,000 kroners for a simple grave in the cemetery and more for a tomb site of one's choice or in a family tomb. A maximum of four hundred crowns yielded a monument one-meter wide while larger sizes required an additional fee. For the resting place and monument of Chana Mindli Abedam the huge sum of 20,000 crowns was paid. The poor, however, were exempt from payment. Under the Polish Republic, funeral fees were fixed although in the 1820s and 1830s, the maximum fee, an unimaginable 5,000 zlotys, was more than four times higher than that paid in Warsaw. At the end of the 19th century, protests about Jewish burial practice began such as the depth of the graves, tombstones erected forty-eight hours from the time of death, and how to transport the deceased to the cemetery, often only in a shroud. In June 1884, Austrian authorities issued a requirement for transporting the bodies to the cemetery regardless of the distance. Penalties for failure to comply were approximately one hundred gold or a two-week detention. 19th and 20th centuries enlightened thought and assimilation meant the Tarnów Jews' funeral processions included funeral wreaths then donated to charitable associations. During WWI, Tarnów was on the Eastern Front, especially from December 1914. These Jews came under six years of Russian control after November 1914. In January 1915, the city commander, Lieutenant Markov, took fourteen hostages suspected as Austrian sympathizers. In mid-February, the Russians found that the Jewish cemetery was next to the communications connection. Again, the Jews were accused of collaboration with the enemy translating to thirty hostages sent into the depths of Russia. In free Poland, the Jews became active in the municipal governance. An act of 5 April 1928 included financial resources to maintain the cemetery. In the 1930- I 1 budget, maintenance of the cemetery was established at 16 513, 15 gold with revenue estimated at about forty thousand. On the afternoon of September 17, 1939, German occupation began. On September 20, Ernst Kundt required Jews wear a white band with a Mogen David. Forced labor began for every Jew from 14 to 60 years of age. A ban on the use of public transportation was placed. Their homes were seized. In November 1939, the Nazis burned all synagogues. In Summer 1940, the Jews were held on the market and watched as their houses were looted. On June 14, 1940, first transport of Polish prisoners to Auschwitz began. Until the final defeat of the Jewish community in Tarnow, these Jews tried to maintain normal burials of people, who died or were murdered during 1940-1941. The first "aktion" was in June 1942. At the market and in the nearby forest Gory Zbylitowskiej several thousand were murdered. At the cemetery were mass murders of about 3,000 buried in mass graves. Belzec was the fate of others after 1942. The final extermination of Tarnow Jews occurred on September 2-3, 1943. All found hiding were shot on the spot and others held in slave labor. In November 1943, all remaining Jews in Tarnów were transported to the Szebniach Jaslo camp. In February 1944, Tarnów was Judenrein. Only two survived with the death of one under mysterious circumstances shortly after the war. [July 2009]

  • CEMETERY: Founded in 1583 on ul Szpitalna, the 3.2-ha cemetery is one of oldest in southern Poland. Sarcophagi exist in the cemetery beside traditional gravestones.  In the eastern part, edged with a concrete wall, a famous rabbi's grave is concealed. Committee of Protection in February renovated the cemetery, fixing the fence and seeing that since 2000, the site receives scheduled care. detailed history of the cemetery. The destroyed Jewish cemetery gravestones were used to pave the roads and make sidewalks. In the early 1990s, matzevot fragments could be seen in a wall of resistance around the building of the Polish post office. The Nazis had planned to build a swimming pool with the marble gravestones at the cemetery. After the war, slowly Jewish life returned in Tarnow with the few Jewish survivors or others from the Soviet Union; a committee for the care of Jewish returnees formed. How many gravestones have returned to the cemetery is unknown. On June 11, 1946, on the anniversary of mass murder of Tarnow Jews, a monument on the site of mass grave was unveiled. Inscriptions on the column in Hebrew and Polish on the granite plaque state that on that site 25 000 Jews were killed by the Germans on May 5,.1942. Hebrew inscription quote  Nacham Bialika "but sun shone and it was not be ashamed". The designer of the monument was a young sculptor named David Becher (died Israel, 1991), who used one of the damaged columns from the ceiling of New Synagogue. Exhumation occurred after the war when an extension of Starodąbrowskiej street was planned through the eastern part of the cemetery. Jews dying in the post-war years were buried on the paths in the cemetery. In 1976, the cemetery was landmarked. In 1988, the Committee for Care Monuments of Jewish Culture wanted to rescue the Jewish heritage of Tarnow. The Committee reset the new cemetery wall that was completed in the 1990s. Since 1989, the cemetery clogged with vegetation since the war has been restored, a new fence erected, vegetation tamed, and fallen gravestones righted. Around 2000, the monograph "The Jewish Cemetery in Tarnów" by Professor Leszek Hondo, an employee of the Jagiellonian University was written. In 2004 in Małopolska Voivodship, the Holocaust monument was refurbished. In 2005, a guide Tarnowski a Jewish cemetery outlines a hiking trail with a brief history of the cemetery and dozens of the most interesting graves of the 3,000 graves in different styles. The oldest preserved gravestone date from the late 17th century. Graves of Tarnow families like Maschler, Merz, Szancer, Aberdam, Brändsteatter, as well as several rabbis like Szmelke Samuel Horowitz (d. 1713), Izak Ajzyk ( zm. 1756), Itzhak Ben Elezer (d. 1811), Israel Rapaport (d. 1881), Abel [?] (d. 1917), and Arak Majer (d. 1925) can be seen again. On the east side, surrounded by concrete walls Arie Leib, descendant of the famous tzaddik Halbersztam, Ezekiel Szragi from Sieniawa, is buried here, a Chasidic pilgrimage site. In the SE part of the cemetery is the WWI military cemetery for 43 or 50+ Austrian Jewish soldiers, who died from combat or wounds and disease in Tarnow hospital from 1914-1917. This is one thirteen Jewish WWI military cemeteries in Galicia. The small gravestones list name and date of death of the soldier except for that of Joseph Steiner, whose family probably replaced it after WWI. In 1991, the Washington Holocaust Memorial Museum housed the original forged gate from 1667 and replaced it with a copy with an informational plate affixed. The keys to the cemetery gates are stored in the Museum District. photos. photos. [July 2009]
  • photo. synagogue photo. [August 2005]
  • A memory stick was found in the Jewish Cemetery in Tarnow on 13 October 2011. See Source: Banai Lynn Feldstein, Salt Lake City, UT USA [October 2012]

  • UPDATE: A friend from San Diego recently returned from Poland with around a hundred photos of ancient graves in Tarnow, Poland, some dating back hundreds of years. The little known cemetery is large (thousands of graves), little known, and escaped destruction. Very moved by the beauty of the graves and their historical importance, he wanted to do something to preserve them. He arranged to meet with local officials, who were aware of the site and had put a fence around it to prevent vandalism. However, moneys are very limited in this poor region. My friend then spoke with Jewish contacts in San Diego, trying to organize funds for a cooperative effort, but got little response. I suggested to him that, to raise money, he needed to find an existing organization devoted to historic preservation with a recognized name and tax-exempt status. I called Hebrew Union College here in Cincinnati and was directed to the International Jewish Cemetery Project web site where I found your name. Source: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 513 558-3115 (days.) NOTE FROM THE PROJECT: Anyone interested in working on this project, please contact Judy Heiny directly, not this website. [November 2002]

US Commission No. POCE00002: The US Commission is not finished rechecking this file. [2000]

Leszek Hondo, ul. Skowronkow 9 m. 126, 33-100 Tarnow Poland teaches at the University of Krakow. He knows both Hebrew and Yiddish and writes down information on Jewish cemeteries (I was told that he is the best researcher of Jewish things in Tarnow). He has an index of the entire Krakow Jewish Cemetery on his computer, as well as a number of others from Galicia (e.g., Bochnia). He has unorganized information on about 80% of the between 5000 and 8000 graves in Tarnow and plans to do all that are readable (what a beautiful cemetery). He does not think he will get around to putting it on computer for another year or two, though, because he is writing a book on the Krakow Cemetery first. He translates entire inscriptions and has pictures of most of the graves. Source: Eric Adler  [date?]

On ul. Spitalna (between ui. Sloneczna and ul. Nowodabrowska, the cemetery dates from 1734 with about 3,000 stones remaining. Source: Miriam Weiner.
Access to the Martyr's Cemetery in Tarnow is now available thanks to the leadership of Commissioner Rabbi Chaskel Besser. He secured a $10,000 donation for the construction of a pathway leading to the cemetery. The pathway, which was completed in July 1998, was greatly needed, as the cemetery is located in a forest.      Source:     US Commission Newsletter, Aug. 21, 1998. See reference to WWI cemetery in POLAND Introduction
[October 2000]

BOOK: Gruber, Ruth Ellen. Jewish Heritage Travel A Guide to East-Central Europe . New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1992. p. 66-67

Tarnow, ulica Szpitalna, 3,000 tombstones. The oldest 1734. Tombs of Tzaddik Arie Halberstam (died 1930) and writer Mordechaj Brandstaetter (died 1928). [source?]


Photos by This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it [2014]


Photos courtesy This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it [July 2015]



[UPDATE] Photos by Charles Burns [April 2016]


Photos courtesy Roger Lippman [June 2017]



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