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Encyclopedia Judaica:
Brno, Czech Republic


Czech Republic: Virtual Jewish World | Austerlitz | Uhersky Brod


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BRNO (Ger. Bruenn), capital of Moravia, Czech Republic. A community was established there in the first half of the 13th century by Jews invited by the margrave of Moravia. A charter granted in 1254 guaranteed protection to Jewish lives and property, freed Jews from restrictions on trade and occupations, and exempted them from wearing distinguishing dress; the community had to contribute a quarter of the amount required for the upkeep of the city fortifications. The charter was renewed in 1268 and incorporated in the city statutes in 1276. There were about 1,000 Jews living in Brno in 1348. A charter granted in 1345 encouraged Jewish settlement. There was then a Jewish quarter with its own "Jews' Gate." Jewish tombstones have been discovered dating from 1373. In the first half of the 15th century Israel *Bruna officiated as rabbi. The Jews were expelled from Brno in 1454, after John of *Capistrano preached there, and were formally excluded from Brno until 1848 by the privilege de non tolerandis Judaeis. Individual Jews, however, paid for permission to attend the markets in the city with an admission fee. This license was extended in 1627 and 1648, but curtailed in 1661. A special inn (leased in 1724 by Jacob Dobruschka) was assigned for Jewish travelers who were officially permitted to spend one night in the city, but often stayed longer illegally. In 1706 the authorities prohibited Jews from holding religious services in public, although these services were tolerated in private. There were then 52 Jews living in Brno. In 1722 the chief representative of Moravian Jewry, the Landesjudensollicitator, was permitted to settle near the city gate. The exclusion of the Jews from Brno was renewed in 1745. In 1764 the brothers Hoenig took over the city bank but in the following year, when two of the brothers were permitted to lease houses in Brno, there was an outbreak of rioting. In 1769 Solomon Dobruschka received permission to hold services in his house and to keep a "small" Torah scroll there. However, the authorities still made attempts to prevent the holding of services in public and in 1812 levied a special tax for "keeping a Torah."

A Hebrew printing press was set up in Brno in 1753 by Franz Joseph Neumann. Jacob *Frank lived in Brno between 1773 and 1786. Following the revolution of 1848 the Jewish community was organized and received official recognition in 1859. The first rabbi was David Ashkenazi. A cemetery was consecrated in 1852, and a synagogue built in 1855. Baruch *Placzek , when rabbi of Brno, also held the title of *Landesrabbiner from 1884 until his death in 1922, when it was discontinued. Jewish industrialists, such as Lazar *Auspitz , Julius Ritter von *Gomperz , Loew-Beer, and others, played an important part in developing the textile industry in Brno. During World War I about 16,000 refugees from Eastern Europe were received by the community and many remained there after the war. The Jewish school network established there included the only Jewish high school in western Czechoslovakia. The Jewish population numbered 134 in 1834; 2,230 in 1859; 4,505 in 1869; 7,809 in 1890; and 10,202 (6.9% of the total population) in 1930, of whom 3,295 declared their nationality to be Jewish. Jewish students from Eastern Europe studied at the University of Brno between the two world wars. Largely members of Zionist student groups, they influenced the local Jewish youth in the national spirit. Brno was the seat of the Juedischer Buch- und Kunstverlag and the weekly Juedische Volksstimme, founded by Max *Hickl .

During World War II the mass deportation of Jews from Brno and its surrounding commenced on Nov. 26, 1941, when 1,000 Jews were sent to the Minsk ghetto. Another 2,000 were sent to Theresienstadt on Dec. 2 and 5, and 7,000 more were deported between Jan. 28 and May 27, 1942, most perishing in Auschwitz. A memorial plaque to the Jewish victims of Nazism deported from Brno has been affixed to the building where the transports of deportees were concentrated. The survivors who returned to Brno after the Holocaust numbered 1,033 in 1948. The Orthodox synagogue (built in 1932) was restored in the 1950s and was in use in 1968. The rabbi of Brno, Richard *Feder , in 1969 was also chief rabbi of Bohemia and Moravia. The community numbered c. 500 in 1959 and c. 700 in 1969, but by the early 2000s the number had dropped to slightly less than 300. The community was responsible for the management of 10 synagogues and 45 cemeteries throughout Moravia, including restoration work.


BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Engel, in: JGGJČ, 2 (1930), 50; Kahan, ibid., 9 (1938), 62, 90, 141; M. Brunner, in: H. Gold (ed.) Die Juden und Judengemeinden Maehrens in Vergangenheit und Gegenwart (1929), 137–72; L. Levy, ibid., 23–29; B. Bretholz, Quellen zur Geschichte der Juden in Maehren (1935), index; idem, Geschichte der Juden in Maehren im Mittelalter, 1 (1934), index; idem, Geschichte der Stadt Bruenn, 1 (1911), 363–81; Rabinowicz, in: JQR 75 Years Anniversary Volume (1967), 429–45; Pick, in: The Jews of Czechoslovakia, 1 (1968), 359–438; A. Charim, Die toten Gemeinden (1966), 29–36; Cada, in: Festschrift Guido Kisch (1955), 261ff.; W. Mueller, Urkundliche Beitraege zur Geschichte der Maehrischen Judenschaft (1903); Germ Jud, 2 (1968), 137–40; Freimann, in: ZHB, 20 (1917), 34–44; A. Hellmann, in: A. Engel (ed.), Gedenkbuch des Juedischen Museums (1936), 131ff.

[Isaac Ze'ev Kahane]


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.

 

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