Discover Jewish life in Tarnów
The Tarnów AudioWalk was developed by Centropa, the Galicia Jewish Museum, and Bartosz Wencel.
About the Jewish Tarnów AudioWalk
Between 2004 and 2006, interviews with Polish Jews who survived the Holocaust were collected under the watchful eye of Anka Grupińska, an outstanding reporter. Thanks to these activities, we are now able to build a picture of the world that remains present only in memories. Searching for any tangible evidence in contemporary space is a vain effort, because this space is often marked by destruction and reconstruction on ruins.
Thanks to the interview conducted by Jakub Rajchman, we get to know the history of pre-war Tarnów. We give the floor to Gizela Fudem, a Holocaust survivor, who tells the story of places that are forgotten, or often pushed by the present inhabitants out of their memory. Recalling images from her past, she shows the way to a world that no longer exists. This audioguide aims to show what is absent and what is pushed beyond the limits of memory.
This journey resembles collecting small crumbs of memories. It is a time when we can go back to the non-existent world for a moment. Through Gizela’s story, we will learn both the pre-war stories and the wartime fate of the city and its residents.
Introduction to Tarnów’s Jewish History
by Bartosz Wencel
- Introduction 00:00
When it comes to Tarnów, before the war, Jews were probably about 50 per cent of the city’s inhabitants, so about 30,000, because it was a city of 50,000 and then 60,000 [people]. Where we lived, on Szpitalna Street, was not an exclusively Jewish district, but most of the houses were occupied by Jews. We lived in a two-storey house; a few years earlier the tenants of these houses were mixed [Jewish and Christian]. But just before the war, only Jews lived there. The neighbourhood was mostly Jewish.The Second World War broke this rich and multi-threaded history. This is how Gizela Fudem describes its beginning:
I remember that terrible thunder woke me up, I looked up and the lamp was shaking above my head. It really swayed, it was such a tremor. We lived on Szpitalna Street, where there were two hospitals: a public one, and a Jewish one a few hundred meters away. The bomb landed there, missed the hospital, but exploded right in front of it. Then there was a big hole in the street and then we knew the war had started in earnest.
I remember how German troops entered and tanks drove into the city. I recall there was a smell of some strange gasoline. Everyone was afraid, of course; no one knew how it would turn out. They said it wouldn’t take long, that it would change, that England and France would help us.During the occupation, Germans murdered Tarnów Jews in repeated executions, particularly from 1941. The largest mass execution began in June 1942. Mass murder took place in the streets of the city, in the Jewish cemetery and in the woods near Zbylitowska Góra, on the outskirts of Tarnów. Many thousands were deported and murdered in the Bełżec death camp. After the Second World War, Holocaust survivors began returning to Tarnów, but the ubiquitous antisemitism and general anti-Jewish atmosphere caused many of them to leave the city not long afterwards. Only a handful remained in Tarnów, who, in 1968, during the antisemitic campaign organized and run by the Polish government, were forced to leave the country, along with nearly 13,000 Polish Jews and people of Jewish origin. Only a few ‘headstrong’ individuals stayed, refusing to yield to overwhelming reality. In Tarnów, Abraham Ladner, the last religious Jew of Tarnów, lived and prayed in the last active prayer-room at 1 Goldhammera Street, until his death in 1993. It would seem that, with the passing of Abraham Ladner, the centuries of Jewish Tarnovian history had definitively ended. However, thanks to initiatives undertaken by non-Jewish activists to remind local people about the past and about their former neighbours, this history continues. The Galizianer Shtetl — a local festival of Jewish culture organized in Tarnów — takes place every year; the Jewish cemetery is regularly cleaned thanks to local activists led by Adam Bartosz, and some matzevot have been restored to their former appearance. All major Jewish heritage sites and Holocaust sites in the city are clearly marked. Attempts have even been made to open a kosher cafe, which, however, due to the coronavirus pandemic, had to be postponed. After years of ‘non-existence’ on the map of Jewish heritage tourism, Tarnów, with its significant number of sites of Jewish interest, is regaining deserved recognition. We invite you to a walking tour around Jewish Tarnów.