Jewish Tarnów

05 Mar 2018

The first mention of Jews in Tarnów dates back to 1445, while the first written record of a synagogue can be traced to the 16th century. In 1667, Stanisław Koniecpolski, who then owned what was still a private city, officially granted Tarnów’s Jewish population the rights to a place of worship and their own cemetery. Tarnów’s vibrant Jewish community included large numbers of both Orthodox and Hasidic Jews, and the city remains a pilgrimage site for many modern Hasidic Jews. Tarnów’s Jews formed a large part of the city’s intellectual and cultural elite, among them several of the most prominent lawyers, doctors, musicians, teachers and entrepreneurs, although the vast majority were generally poor.

On the day WWII broke out in Europe there were about 25,000 Jews living in Tarnów, making up about 45% of the city’s population. The Nazis formed a ghetto for their internment in the area directly east of the Rynek, where the majority of the Jewish population already lived. Between June 1942 and September 1944 virtually the entire Jewish population of Tarnów was either shot or deported - almost certainly to their deaths, ending almost exactly 500 years of Jewish cultural life in the city. A sinister footnote in the history of the Holocaust relates to Tarnów; as early as October 20, 1939, Tarnów's Jews were forced to wear Star of David armbands, making this the first town in Poland to do so.


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