Map and history of Galicia

    Maps of Tarnow(Latitude 50°01´, Longitude 20°59´)

      Historical maps of partitions of Poland

      History of Tarnów

      Jewish Culture in Tarnow

      Jewish historic sites in Tarnow

      Jews of Tarnow

      Tarnow county

      Definition of the word “shtetl”

Maps of Tarnow

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                        Historical maps of partitions of Poland - the first partition of Poland in 1772. - second partition of Poland in 1793 - third partition of Poland in 1795 - Poland between 1921-1939 - Poland today

History of Tarnow


Evidence of settlement in this area goes back to the Mesolithic Era. A Celtic burial ground in Łętowice has also been discovered that dates to the late fifth and early sixth centuries BC. In the mid-ninth century AD, a stronghold was built on the slope of Mount St. Martin (the archeological evidence for this stronghold has come from an area of 9.6 hectares [approx. 23.7 acres]). Though the fortified settlement was destroyed in the eleventh century, another with the name of “Tarnów” was founded on the Biała river. This was a popular place name in the Slavic lands. In the late eleventh and early twelfth centuries, it was given to the Benedictine monastery in Tyniec near Kraków, which is confirmed by records in a document of the papal legate Ćgidius of Touca?, who arrived in Poland in approximately 1124. This is the first written mention of Tarnów’s existence. The next comes from 1308 or 1309, and is found in a list of miracles that occurred through the intercession of Kinga the Blessed, which were included in the “Life of Kinga the Blessed”. Described is the healing of a woman named Marta, who was said to come from the village of Tarnów, which belonged to count Rafał.


In 1327, Spycimir of the Leliwa crest acquired the village by way of purchase and exchange with a knight named Leonard. The village was later called Tarnów Wielki, and three years later, Spycimir founded his own private town there. On 7 March 1330, the king of Poland, Władysław Łokietek, granted a privilege allowing the town Tarnów to be granted a charter based on Magdeburg law.  Spycimir Leliwita finished construction of the castle on Mount St. Martin.  Tarnów’s town charter is kept in the Czartoryski Library in Kraków. The Leliwa family also contributed to the town’s development by promoting trade and crafts. One of the family’s branches began using the surname “Tarnowski” beginning in the fifteenth century.  Advantageous privileges attracted merchants of various nationalities to the town, including Germans, Jews and Scots. A particular important figure for the town’s heyday was Jan Tarnowski (1488-1561), grand crown hetman, military commander, politician and writer – a Renaissance man in the style of Erasmus of Rotterdam.  In the sixteenth century, the town was encompassed by embankments and walls, and sewer and wooden water supply systems were already in place. More than a dozen guilds existed at that time.


In the sixteenth century, the parish church that had been erected just after the town received its town charter was elevated to the status of collegiate church. A synagogue, school and Calvinist church also existed. The tombstone of Jan Tarnowski dates back to this period. It is one of the most beautiful and largest (13.8 meters tall [45 feet]) tombstones in Europe, which was carved by the Italian artist Gian Maria Mosca of Padua, known as “Padovano” (“the Paduan”).  Padovano also designed the Renaissance town hall, and later also oversaw its construction. As the result of marriages, family connections and historical circumstances, Tarnów belonged over history to the powerful Ostrogski, Sanguszko and Lubomirski families.


As the result of the first partition of Poland, Tarnów fell under Austrian rule, in what was known as Galicja, and was the seat of local government (the cyrkuł, an administrative unit similar to a modern powiat – district). From 1785, Tarnów was also the seat of a bishopric. In 1787, the Austrian government retracted Prince Hieronim Sanguszko’s judicial and administrative powers in the town, which became subject only to the Austrian government. A Forum Nobilium (Noble Court) was established for the seven following districts: Myślenice, Sącz, Bochnia, Tarnów, Rzeszów, Sanok and Dukla.


From the very start, a patriotic underground movement was active in Tarnów and the surrounding region, whose aim was to combat Germanization, preserve Polish values and contribute to the struggle for independence.


The most prominent of these Polish patriots was General Józef Bem, who was born in Tarnów in 1794. He was an outstanding strategist, and a soldier of great courage and determination, who participated in the November Uprising (1830-1831) and in the fighting for Hungary’s freedom during the Spring of Nations (1848-1849). Tarnów also witnessed the “Galician slaughter”. Peasants, incited by the partitioning power, attacked the nobility, looted their estates and killed the “lords” who were leaders of the independence movement. The peasants accused them of subjecting everyone to repressions by the “legal” partitioning authorities, who paid peasants who presented members of Tarnów’s city council with the corpses of members of the nobility. The massacre, led by Jakub Szela, is also known as the Galician Massacre, and began on 18 February 1846. It failed to squelch patriotism and efforts to win independence. During the January Uprising in 1863, for a short time Tarnów was the headquarters for a branch of the National Council.


The town’s development accelerated in the second half of the nineteenth century, along with the construction of the railroads, which increased trade and light industry.  In 1852, Franciszek Eliasiewicz, who [later] took part in the January Uprising, founded a machine and farm tools factory in Tarnów’s Zabłocie district. After the January Uprising, it was expanded to include an iron foundry. In 1858, Szymon Reiter opened a match factory. The population also grew: in 1870, Tarnów had a population of over 21,000, which made it the third largest town in Galicia, after Lwów and Kraków.  Gas lights were installed in the town, a local press was established, and in 1888, Father Józef Bąba founded the first Diocesan Museum, where he collected sacral art – the first such Institution in the Polish lands. In the early twentieth century, development continued: the town was electrified and a new train station was built.


During the First World War, Russian troops occupied Tarnów already on 10 November 1914. They remained stationed in the town until 6 May 1915. The Polish Rifleman Divisions, Strzelec and Sokół, joined the fight against the partitioning powers. The 1st Brigade of the Polish Legions fought against the Russians near Tarnów, at Łowczówek, on 22-25 December 1914.

During the Tarnów-Gorlice operation in early May 1915, the town was under fire by Austrian heavy artillery. Several buildings in the town and train station platforms were destroyed. On the night of 30-31 October 1918, Tarnów was the first town in Poland to gain its independence after one hundred forty-six years of subjugation. Austrian soldiers were disarmed and Colonel Kajetan Amirowicz was named the town’s commandant.


After the war, the town experienced a period of cultural and economic development. During the 1920’s, construction began on the State Factory of Azot Compounds in nearby Świerczków, which from 1929 was known as Mościce and annexed to Tarnów. This building was one of the largest investments in interwar Poland, and brought about an increase in the population and gave the town a more industrial character. In 1939, Tarnów had a population of about 40,000, of whom about half were Jews.


During the Polish-Soviet War of 1920, the National Defense government was headed by Prime Minister Wincenty Witos, whose home village was Wierzchosławice near Tarnów. Another Tarnów native, General Franciszek Latinik, was named during that period to the post of military governor of Warsaw.  In April 1924, Tarnow was an important center of a general strike.


In August 1931, Tarnów was the site of the Tenth Congress of Polish Legionnaires. Approximately 10,000 people came for the event, which included all of Poland’s important political and military leaders, such as President Ignacy Mościcki, Prime Minister Aleksander Prystor, speaker of the Sejm Kazimierz Świtalski and Marshal Edward Śmigły-Rydz.


Just before the German invasion of Poland, a group of saboteurs bombed the Tarnów train station on 28 August 1939. On 3 September, the Luftwaffe bombed the State Factory of Azot Compounds in Mościce, as well as the town itself.


In November, transit camps were set up in Tarnów and Mościce for Polish prisoners of war. The first arrests took place in March 1940. In June, the Germans sent thirteen engineers from the azot plant in Mościce from the Tarnów prison to Wiśnicz, and from there to Auschwitz. They had been arrested for boycotting German instructions. The first transport of Polish political prisoners, a total of 728 people, took place on 14 June 1940.  In mid-1941, the Germans issued a decree that a closed ghetto be created for the Jews.  Its final liquidation took place in September 1943.  In July 1943, after the resistance movement issued and carried out a death sentence on five of the Tarnów Gestapo’s informers, the Germans staged a public massacre in reprisal, and as a way of terrorizing the population. In April 1944, they publicly shot fifty prisoner-hostages in reprisal after the resistance organized the derailment of German trains and other acts of sabotage. Home Army detachments carried out diversionary attacks as part of the “Burza” campaign. The Tarnów AK district recruited five companies of the AK’s 1st battalion 16 p.p. The “Barbara” battalion, under the leadership of Captain Eugeniusz Borowski, ps. "Leliwa", conducted diversionary attacks on the Ciężkowice Plateau. On 17 January 1945, before the Germans left the city, they destroyed the equipment at the Tarnów train station, blew up the warehouses and all the bridges. On 18 January 1945, Tarnów was no longer under German occupation.

Jews of Tarnow


As early as 1445, we find mention of Kalef, a Tarnów Jew, who originally had come from Lwów and was a silk trader. Tarnów soon however became home to one of the largest Jewish communities in Małopolska. In Yiddish, Tarnów is known as Tarnow, Tornew, Torne and Tarna. In the Middle Ages, the Jews were primarily involved in the grain and wine trades, whose goods came from Rus’ and Hungary. We know that at first Tarnów had a branch of the Kraków Community (known as przykahałek, or small auxiliary kahal). In 1581, the town’s owner, Konstanty Ostrogski, granted the Jews a privilege enabling them to engage in trade inside buildings, at stalls and on the market square, as well as to distill and sell alcohol. This privilege was confirmed in 1676 by his grandson, Władysław Dominik, and then by the next heir as well, Stanisław Koniecpolski. Thanks to the advantageous privileges, the Jewish population grew, and in the eighteenth century exceeded 30% of the town’s population.

The Jewish community’s significance also grew, as shown by the fact that the Tarnów Jews had several representatives in the Council of Four Lands. These privileges also excluded the Jews from the municipal court system, which protected them from any possible abuses by the town council. They were to be subject only to the castle court. The documents guaranteed protection for the synagogue and cemetery, for they stipulated harsh punishments for anyone who might desecrate them. The Jews strove to come to agreements with the burghers as well, demonstrated for example the agreement signed in 1631 regarding rents Jews were to pay for having a kirkut in the village of Pogdwizdów

In 1667, Stanisław Koniecpolski, the town’s owner at that time, guaranteed the Jews the privileges they had been granted earlier (such as the synagogue and cemetery). In 1723, Tarnów became part of the princely Sanguszko family holdings. As new owners, they wielded their “castle suzerainty” not from Mt. St. Martin, but from their court in Gumniski. They, too, were favorably inclined towards the Jewish population, seeing in them an opportunity to develop the town after the destruction of the seventeenth century. The general situation in the country, however, and the partitions of Poland hampered their efforts. In September 1792, a fire broke out that devastated the town. The Jewish quarter was destroyed, as was the market square and town hall.


In the late eighteenth century, new currents appeared – Chasidism (under the influence of the Halberstam and Horowitz dynasties) and the haskala. In 1788, thanks to funds from Naftaly Herz Homberg, the first Jewish secular school was opened. The Jewish district originally included the northeastern part of the downtown area, and Grabówka was the Chasidic quarter. When the Community asked the Austrian authorities for permission to expand the area in which Jews were allowed to settle in the town, the answer was negative.  As a result, the idea that a Jewish town “outside the walls” emerged, but this was never realized in the end. Nevertheless, the buildings that were erected in this area, such as the New Synagogue or baths, do show that this idea was treated seriously. Austrian rule was oppressive not only for the Poles, but also for the Jews, who were subjected to Germanization just as the Poles were.  Beginning in 1788, every Jew had to be registered under a German surname.

In addition, the emperor required military service of the Jews, and the power of the kahal was limited exclusively to religious matters.  Jews were also banned from moving to the cities, which in effect brought about the impoverishment of the Jewish population. The “law on paupers” was also introduced, which banned anyone unable to pay their taxes from exiting the monarchy’s borders.  Taxes were increased constantly (and included “kosher” and “candle” taxes), and a marriage tax was introduced. The aim of the latter was to limit natural growth among Jews.


In 1842, a Jewish hospital was opened in Tarnów, and in 1904 the municipal baths, designed by Franciszek Hackbail and Michał Mikoś, was built. Another historic date was the grand opening of the New Synagogue, designed by Franciszek Dundaszek and Władysław Ekielski. The synagogue was called the Franz Josef I Synagogue, because it officially opened on the emperor’s birthday, on 18 August 1908.

Occasionally there were events manifesting a mutual antipathy, such as beatings or robberies, usually involving the local peasantry. In the town itself, an atmosphere of co-existence dominated. Nevertheless, in 1869, during a fire at the cathedral, the Jews were so selfless in helping to put out the fire that Bishop Alojzy Pukalski presented a letter to the rabbi with heartfelt thanks for their assistance. When the bishop was celebrating the anniversary of his bishopric, the Community sent a congratulatory letter, for which he publicly expressed his thanks.


In the late nineteenth century, the idea of emigration to Palestine was very much alive in Tarnów. One of the first pioneering settlements was the village of Mahanaim, founded in 1898 by a group from Tarnów. Today all that remains is a plaque recalling the pioneers from Tarnów.


Tarnów’s dynamic development as an industrial center during the interwar period contributed to a significant growth in the town’s Jewish population.  There is no doubt that antipathy and an anti-Semitic mood did exist among the peasantry, and that this also penetrated the ruling elite (one can recall here for example the memoirs of Wincenty Witos). The Jews nevertheless did participate in the struggle for Poland’s independence, in the hope that there would be positive changes in a free country.

During the interwar period, Tarnów was famous for its hat-making industry, with the companies Zylbersztejn, Klajn and Kinberg and Wajs. These firms exported their products to countries as far away as the Balkans. Clothing manufacturing was also very developed. The foundations for this industry were laid by Rajzla Rubin.


In 1939, the Jews made up half of Tarnów’s population. They had approximately thirty synagogues and houses of prayer, schools, and their own sports clubs, such as “The Jewish Sporting Youth”, “Gwiazda-Stern”, “Kraft-Siła”, “Dror”, “Hagibor”, “Hacair”, “Gordonia” and “Samson”. The last of these was the most successful, and had a beautiful stadium that celebrated its grand opening in 1930, on the eighteenth anniversary of the club’s foundation. A number of cultural institutions existed, such as the drama circle “Hazomir” (“Song”), Music and Theater Association “Muza”, Music Society and the Singing Society “Harmonia”. All the Jewish political parties active on the national scene also had a presence in Tarnów. In addition, there were many charitable organizations, such as “Bikur kholim” (“Visiting the Sick”), “Beis-Lekhem” (“House of Bread”), “chevra kadisha” (“Holy Brotherhood”), “Tsdaka” (alms for the poor) and “Anshel khesed” (“The Generosity of People”).

After the Germans entered Tarnów, the Jews began to be persecuted, just as in the rest of the Generalgouvernement. In November 1939, over the course of a few days, most of the synagogues and houses of prayer were burned down.  In mid-1941, the Germans issued an order creating a closed ghetto for the Jews. Its final liquidation took place in September 1943. Himmler issued a decree ordering the deportation of the Jewish and Polish populations from the territories annexed to the Reich. In addition, General Gubernator Hans Frank also had a plan to free Kraków of its Jews. As a result, the Tarnów ghetto held about 40,000 people, and included the area of Lwowska, Nowa, Folwarczna, Szpitalna, Polna and Jasna streets, as well as the square Pod Dębem (today known as Square of the Ghetto Heroes).

The most tragic date in the history of Tarnów’s Jews was 11 June 1942, when about three thousand people were killed by the Germans on Tarnów’s market square and nearby streets. Their remains were buried in the cemetery on Starodąbrowska street. In the following days, until 18 June 1942, the action continued. Over 12,000 people were killed, about 8,000 were sent to camps in Bełżec, Płaszów and Auschwitz. A few who managed to escape death went into hiding.  Punishment for aiding a Jew was the death penalty: in Jodłowa, near Tarnów, for example, the Germans burned down the Filipiak farm and shot the entire family. In the village of Podborze, the Germans burned down twenty houses as punishment for residents’ assistance to the Jews.

The last caretaker of the house of prayer at Goldhammer street died in 1993, and the District Museum in Tarnów began to care for the synagogue’s furnishings. The keys were given to the Kraków Community. Groups of Jews having their origins in Tarnów are active at present in France, Israel, Canada and the United States. On 19-21 June 1997, the District Museum organized an event called “Jews of Tarnów: A Day of Commemoration”.



·       Tarnow county


·       Tarnow locality guide


·       Jewish historic sites in Tarnow


     ·       Definition of the word “shtetl”




Galicia, as an administrative and geographical term is usually connected with the period of partition of Poland and brings to mind the territories of Podole and Wolyn taken by Austria in 1772.  However the political history of this land, called formerly Red Russia dates back to XII century. A name itself according to one of the theories may derive even from the period of migration of peoples.  The names Galics in the British Isles, Gallatia in the Balcans, Gallia or Gaul in France, Galicia in Spain and Galicja in Poland and todays Ukraine are testimonies of the route taken by the Goidels or Gaidheil tribes, in their migration into Europe from a place somewhere in Asia Minor.  According to another theory the name Galicia (ukr. Halychyna) derives from Halicz (ukr. Halych), town which in 1140 became the seat of the first prince of Galicia, called Vladimir. And name Halicz itself derives from Ukrainian word "halka" meaning "crow" in English. That is why there is a crow on the coat of arms of this land.  At the turn of the XII and XIII century the territories of Galicia were possessed by Polish, Hungarian and Volynian princes and in 1223 they faced the first Tartar and Mongolian invasion.

The period of the greatest glory for the duchy of Galicia started when prince Daniel, the descendant of Volynian princes took his office in 1238. Daniel fought off the Tartar invasions, managed to break the Polish - Hungarian alliance and captured Kiev. In 1250 prince Daniel in honeur of his son Lew founded a new city of Lviv, which soon became a capital. Three years later Daniel was crowned by Papal Delegate, however already in 1264 he died and Galicia fell into decline.


In 1349 Polish king Casimir the Great, seated in Cracow, seized the Red Russia and a part of Wolyn and in this way he enlarged the boundaries of Poland for the Galicia territory. This land remained under Polish King's rule up until 1772. In 1648 Bogdan Chmielnicki became the leader of Cossack uprising against Polish authorities. Long term civil war devastated Galicia, leading whole region to an economic stagnation, at that time numerous Pogroms of Jews were lead. On the 5th of August 1772 Austria seized the eastern Galicia, taking part in the partition of Poland with Prussia and Russia.  Next partitions and the gradual limitations of Galician autonomy led in 1795 to the Austrian capture of Cracow.

During Austrian times, Galicia extended from the Biala River (minor tributary of the Vistula) in the west to the Zbrucz / Zbruch, (tributary of the Dniester in the east).  From the Carpathians in the south, to the land drops off to the north, passing over the Sarmatian Plain. At its largest during Austrian period, Galicia comprised approximately 78,000 square kilometers. Two main cities Cracow and Lviv soon became very resilient academic and political centers of partitioned Poland.  Under the rule of emperor Franz Josef broad autonomy was granted to Galicia due to the political shrewdness and common sense of Polish intelligentsia.

The peace treaty of Versailles after World War I brought liberation for the nations of Central Europe, dominated before by Russia, Prussia and Austria.  On November 11th, 1918 Poland regained independence after 123 years of slavery and aimed to rebuild the state in pre-partition borders. This led to a conflict with freshly created Ukrainian nation. After heavy warfare for Lviv and dislocation of Ukrainian army behind the line of Zbrucz river in 1919, Galicia came back as a Polish province again.

As a result of agreement of Jalta and Potsdam conferences after World War II the borders of Poland were moved westwards, but at the same time Poland lost great part of its eastern territories. These lands were given to the freshly created Soviet Republics.

Former, historical Galicia was divided with border between Poland and Ukraine.  Galicia lost its nature in result of numerous displacement actions, fratricide fights of Ukrainian nationalists and under an influence of communist regime.  This land ceased to be a melting - pot where many, different cultures and religions interacted for centuries. In the present times the region of Galicia is rich in numerous historical and cultural monuments, like Shtetls, Orthodox churches and masterpieces of wooden architecture which bring back the memory of this land's Golden Times.



Coat of Arms of Galicia


Copyright © 2008 Molly Runds

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