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shtetlach

Tarnobrzeg

Tarnobrzeg [] (דזיקאוו-Jikov) is a town in south-eastern Poland, on the east bank of the river Vistula, with 51,300 inhabitants (2001). Situated in the Subcarpathian Voivodeship (Polish: Województwo Podkarpackie) since 1999, it had previously been the capital of Tarnobrzeg Voivodeship (1975–1998).

Economy

Sulphur mining

The city was a major center for the mining and processing of sulphur and sulphuric acid. However, its mines have since closed having been deemed uneconomic. The mine in Piaseczno was closed first, followed by the Machów mine (after 40 years of working — it had been the biggest open-cast sulphur mine in Europe), and finally the Jeziórko mine in the 1990s. The Jeziórko mine stayed open as long as it did because of the introduction of the modern Frasch process of sulphur extraction.

Since the 1980s, the land in the mining areas has gradually been reclaimed. The Machów mine has been filled with water to form a reservoir used for recreation, and the same is happening with the Jeziórko mine — it is being slowly filled from the nearby Vistula river.

History

Tarnobrzeg was founded in 1593, during the golden age of Poland, to become the residence of the regional Tarnowski "szlachta" (noble family) whose head is known as Count Tarnów. In 1772, it became part of the Austrian Empire and remained part of this country until 1918. World War I brought disaster to the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Galician Poland. Tarnobrzeg, located very close to the Russian-Austrian border, sustained heavy damage during World War I by invading armies.

In the aftermath of World War I, the short-lived Republic of Tarnobrzeg was declared here, and in 1919, it became part of a newly independent Second Polish Republic. The city suffered significant emigration within the former Austrian empire and elsewhere during the interbellum years (1919-1939). About 6,000,000 Poles of various ethnicities - including many inhabitants of Tarnobrzeg and surrounding areas - were casualties of World War II.

A public school system was founded here during the time it was part of the Austrian Empire. To a great extent, this system established the literacy and culture of pre-World War I Tarnobrzeg and other similar Austrian-ruled Polish municipalities.

The nearest larger city of importance is Rzeszów, 75 km to the south. This is the capital city for the Subcarpathian Voivodeship. Travel to and from the one-time Imperial capital of Vienna was through Kraków. Railway service was established in later years of the Empire; Tarnobrzeg is located on the secondary-importance line between Dębica and Sandomierz.

In the 1950s, after geological research into fuel deposits, significant sulfur resources were discovered. From early 1960s the city grew rapidly: the population rose from 5,000 to almost 50,000.

Extinct Jewish Community of Tarnobrzeg

Pre-Holocaust Tarnobrzeg, a shtetl of western Galicia, was home to a thriving and traditional Jewish community. Tarnobrzeg is situated in a region of Poland that is not close to the better-known larger Jewish communities of Poland (itself home to over 3,000,000 Jewish citizens before World War II) that were located in cities such as Warsaw, Kraków, Lublin, Lvov-Lemberg, and many others. The Jews of Poland had arrived from German and French lands as a direct result of the atrocities of the Crusades. Jews had been formerly been welcomed during Poland's former golden age. In sum, the History of Jews in Poland is confluent with the history of Tarnobrzeg. Jewish inhabitants of Tarnobrzeg, and their descendents, are considered Galitzianers or Galician Jews. Before 1939, Tarnobrzeg was administered by Austria-Hungary. Between 1939 and 1945, i.e., during the Holocaust and World War II, Galicia was administered under the German General Gouvernment, a Nazi administration. Following World War II Galicia was permanently split between eastern/Russian and western/Polish sectors.

Prior to World War I, Tarnobrzeg as part of Galicia was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, also known as the Holy Roman Empire, based in Vienna. The 19th century after 1815 was, across Europe, a period of relative peace and stability following the conclusion of the extremely violent French Napoleonic Wars, themselves echoes of the military might of Louis XIV in an earlier century, which threatened political regimes everywhere. Due to progressive initiatives following Napoleonic times, Tarnobrzeg citizens including the Jewish Community benefited from compulsory free public education mandated by the Austrian Emperor. The same was not true for other Polish Jewry situated in, e.g., Danzig or Warsaw, areas outside of Galicia. Compulsory public education was opposed by some Jewish religious authorities who believed that traditional Jewish Torah and Talmud studies should not even be partially supplanted by secular instruction.

The political stability which ended in Tarnobrzeg and surrounding areas with the collapse of the Austrian Empire as a result of World War I portended a difficult future for Tarnobrzeg's Jews. Although atrocities and population displacements during World War II dominate the history of Tarnobrzeg's Jews, deportations during World War I to trans-Ural Russia were also highly disruptive and destroyed much of the established community. Many emigration to the United States or Palestine. In sum, although many Jews returned to Tarnobrzeg and surrounding towns following World War I, Tarnobrzeg and surrounding towns were no longer prosperous nor hospitable for Jews after World War I and the end of Franz-Josef-ruled Austro-Hungary rule.

Nearby shtetlach (Jewish or Yiddish-language plural of shtetl) of, e.g., Rozwadów and Ulanow had many commercial and family ties to Tarnobrzeg. There were several affinity groups among the thriving Jewish population before World War II, including Hasidic, Zionist, Bundist (Socialist), and others. Many Jewish citizens of Tarnobrzeg emigrated to Palestine, later to become Israel during the pre-World War II period.

Prominent Tarnobrzeg citizen Moses Hauser, who was Jewish, was a centenarian whose lifespan nearly coincided with the 19th century. Hauser was a wealthy businessman, trader, and landholder dating from Napoleonic times through the reign of Austrian Emperor Franz Josef. His life is documented in a Yizkor (Memorial) Book published by Tarnobrzeg elders following the Holocaust. Hauser was father to twelve children and many descendents living in the United States, Israel, and elsewhere.

The atrocities committed by gentiles against Jewish citizens of Tarnobrzeg during the Holocaust obliged them to choose between a limited number of mortally dangereous escape routes or alternatively to perish by remaining. Very few people, if any, were known to have survived as Jews in Tarnobrzeg, where they would have needed to be hidden by righteous gentiles. Those migrating eastward to communist Russia had to choose between permanent communist citizenship, service in the Red Army in its battle against the German Axis, and loss of freedom to subsequently leave Russia or alternatively to become displaced persons known as DPs. DPs were temporarily relocated by the Russian government to work camps in Siberia, there to wait out the war. Many DPs perished owing to extremely rugged conditions for which they were unprepared, and poor supplies available in wartime trans-Ural Russian Asia. Those who survived were permitted to depart Russian lands following World War II.

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