Tarnów Ghetto

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The Tarnów Ghetto
Tarnow III.JPG
Building that hosts Memorial to those Jews killed in the Tarnów Ghetto.

The Tarnów Ghetto was a Jewish Ghetto located in the city of Tarnów, located approximately 70km east from the city of Kraków.[1] It was established for the purpose of exploitation, terror, and persecution of local Polish Jews, as well as the staging area for separating the "able workers" from those who would later be deemed unworthy of life.


On September 8th, 1939, the Germans came to occupy the city of Tarnów. Upon their arrival, the Germans immediately started capturing Jewish men in the streets, forcing them to do labor, and taking away other Jewish property. On November 9th, 1939, the synagogues and other prayer houses were set ablaze, then completely destroyed[2]. About one month later, on December 18th, 1939, the Jews of Tarnów were required to hand in all valuables, such as jewelry and foreign currency, as well as wear a special patch signifying they were Jews, or they would face death. The Tarnów Ghetto was officially established in March 1941. Soon after, in June 1941, the Jewish people from the area surrounding were relocated to Tarnów. This relocation caused the population of the ghetto to rise to about 40,000 people.[3]

Persecution of the Jews[edit]

The 1st action that was taken against the Jews occurred on June 9th, 1942. On this date, the Jewish people were required to report to Kaplanowka Square to fill out registration papers. They were stamped with either a “SD” if they did war work, and a “K” if they did not do any war work. People stamped with a “K” were set to be deported soon after.

Then, on the morning of June 12th, 1942, men from the SS were given rations of alcohol. After consuming the alcohol, the SS men grabbed axes and went door to door to the Jewish residences. Jews found with papers stamped with a “K” or Jews who didn’t have papers were either taken away or killed on the spot. Some were taken to a forest near the ghetto and were gunned down. Others were taken to Czacki school, put in a steam bath, and were choked to death from the steam.

The 2nd action was taken on July 24th-25th, 1942. The Jewish people were ordered out of their houses. They were required to walk barefoot to the market square, getting whipped and pushed by the butts of the Nazi’s rifles. Any children in these homes were escorted to a shed nearby and were shot dead. Some of the Jews who were fit for labor were taken for the purpose of forced labor, the others were then deported to Belzec extermination camp. This action was also known as the “Children Action” because of the large number of children killed during this event.

In October 1942, the Tarnów Ghetto was split into Section A and Section B. Section A was turned into a forced labor camp split into a male division and a female division. Section B was made up of the Jewish people who didn’t work or who had large families. Once a Jew was assigned to a certain section, he or she was not allowed to move sections.

Once the Jews from Section A were shipped away for labor, the Jews in Section B were told to report to the Magdeburger Platz where all their valuables were confiscated.[4] They were then ordered to kneel down in front of the Gestapo officers while their documents were checked.

By the middle of the day, 2,500 Jews were lined up at the square and marched to the station where they were loaded into goods wagons. The train stopped one time at the Rzeszow station to pick up more wagons of Jews. The train then left for the final destination of Belzic. A select few Jewish people were able to climb through the vents and jump out of the wagon and head back to the Tarnów Ghetto.

In January 1943, the remaining 9,000 Jews left in the Tarnów Ghetto were ordered to safeguard the properties left behind by the Jews that were deported and to supervise the Jewish labor force.

A conference in mid-August 1943 was held in which it was announced that the Tarnów Ghetto would be finally liquidated in early September 1943. An end of August conference confirmed the plans for the final liquidation. 300 Jewish people, 200 men and 100 women[5], were to stay behind to be the cleanup crew. 6,00 Jews were transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau for “special treatment”, and the remained 2,00 Jews were transferred to Plaszow. On September 3rd1943, SS as well as other forces surrounded the Tarnów Ghetto.[6] The Jews for Section A and the Jews from Section B went to the Magdeburger Platz. Some Jews from Section A were selected to move to the Plaszow camp to do forced labor, the rest were put into the Singer factory grounds. Many were not immediately deported. In the afternoon, Jews from the Magdeburger Platz were led to the railway station to be loaded into the goods wagons. They squeezed 160 Jews in each wagon, nailing wooden planks over the air vents. Because of this lack of ventilation, many Jews died during the trip.

On January 18th, 1945, the Soviet Army entered the city of Tarnów, ending the Nazi occupation of the city.

First-Hand Experiences[edit]

  • 'Joseph Wardzala Joseph was captured on the streets of the Tarnów Ghetto in April 1941. He was immediately taken to a good wagon and was shipped from Tarnów to Germany. He was assigned to build underground shelters in the neighborhood of Wattenstadt. As he recounts, “The work was exhausting, 10 hours a day, six days a week, often even Sundays.” People were continually dying of pure exhaustion. People in the camp were only given one meal a day, which consisted of a bowl of soup and a small amount of margarine on a piece of bread. If people did not work fast enough, they were whipped with a leather whip. The camp was finally liberated in April 1945 by the United States Army. The American created camps where children could get an education. People were now allowed to attend church and to have jobs of their choosing. Joseph arrived in the United States in 1950 where he found a home in Derby, Connecticut.  Since 1966 he has been organizing exhibits, giving presentations, and showing videos on what happened to him during the war. He has also donated many documents such as the document stating he was a forced laborer. His letter “P”, which he had to have sewn on his clothing because he was Polish, is also displayed at the Holocaust Museum. He now gives many lectures on the Holocaust to thank God for his survival, and to prevent an event like this from occurring again.[7]


  1. ^ Gutman, Israel (1995). Encyclopedia of the Holocaust. Macmillan Library Reference USA. p. 1454. ISBN 9780028645278.
  2. ^ Club-Sites.co.uk. "Holocaust Historical Society". www.holocausthistoricalsociety.org.uk. Retrieved 2018-05-04.
  3. ^ "Tarnow www.HolocaustResearchProject.org". www.holocaustresearchproject.org. Retrieved 2018-05-04.
  4. ^ "Tarnow". United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Retrieved 2018-05-04.
  5. ^ "Tarnow Ghetto – Amon Göth & the Final Deportation -The German Occupation of Europe". www.holocaustresearchproject.org. Retrieved 2018-05-04.
  6. ^ Brecher, Elinor J. (1994-11-01). Schindler's legacy: true stories of the list survivors. Dutton. p. 143.
  7. ^ "Kidnapped and Deported - Joseph Wardzala - One Man's Story from the Polish Holocaust | The Holocaust History - A People's and Survivor History - Remember.org". The Holocaust History - A People's and Survivor History - Remember.org. Retrieved 2018-05-04.

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