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Use our multimedia maps, and explore the family pictures, archival material, and personal stories of 21 Jewish Holocaust survivors to get a unique insight into Europe’s rich Jewish heritage, and to discover sites of Jewish life in towns in Moldova, Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania.
During the Second World War, this area was part of the Tarnów Ghetto. After the liquidation of the ghetto in 1943, the local population began to dismantle building after building to obtain free building material for sale or for construction purposes. That is why today it is so difficult to see any pre-war structure in this neighbourhood. It is also why the building in front of us is so noticeable with its semicircular, ornamental details, its intricately decorated windows and its attic. We are looking at the mikveh, the ritual Jewish bathhouse. It was constructed in 1904 in the oriental, or Moorish, style that was very fashionable at that time. It served the Jewish community of Tarnów until the outbreak of the Second World War. After the war, it became an ordinary public bathhouse. The layout of its interior changed more and more over time. Finally, it was turned into a department store. Today, its former purpose is evidenced only by the name of the restaurant that is located here — Stara Łaźnia (The Old Bath House).
This is how Gizela Fudem recalls it:
I remember that there was a mikvah in Tarnów — a huge bathhouse on Bożnic Square. Dad used to go there on Fridays. Women had to take a ritual bath there before getting married. Later, it served as a checkpoint to go to or from the ghetto, because one side was outside the ghetto, and the other side had an entrance to the ghetto.
When we turn around, we can see a monument commemorating the first transport to Auschwitz concentration camp. On 13 June 1940, the Germans transferred 753 prisoners who were accused of forbidden political activities from a local prison to the building of the former mikveh. They were Polish citizens — most of them Christian, some of them Jewish. 728 men were deported from Tarnów the next day, the first prisoners in a place that would become a symbol of evil — Konzentrationslager Auschwitz.