Brno has been the Moravian capital city since the 17th century. Jewish settlements have existed in Brno since the 13th century, however the medieval Jewish quarter with a synagogue and a cemetery perished with the banishment of the Jews from the city in 1454. The recent Jewish Community has been developing since the 18th century in the outskirts of Brno around Křenová Street; a fast growth followed after the Jews obtained full citizenship rights in the mid-19th century. The Jewish population of Brno reached approximately 12,000 residents between the World Wars. The practising Jewish community was restored after the end of the WW II. Its secretarial quarters nowadays reside at 3 Kpt. Jaroše Street and the Jewish Community of Brno administers the whole region of South Moravia. Also see www.zob.cz and www.jewishmuseum.cz/brno.
Of the initially four Jewish Houses of God in Brno only a Modern Movement style synagogue remains. The synagogue, built between 1934 and 1936 by the orthodox Agudas Achim Congregation according to a project by Arch. Otto Eisler, can be found at 13 Skořepka Street, 500 m south of the city centre. It is the most recently built synagogue in Moravia and Silesia, nowadays the only one in the whole region still being used for its initial religious purpose. The building itself is a discrete structure dominated by a large window divided into thirty sections (Fig.1). Unlike the austere modernist exterior, the interior layout is classical (Fig.2). The synagogue is open for visits by organised visitor groups upon a prior appointment by phone +420 544 509 651.
Of the buildings of earlier Jewish institutions the headquarters of the former Jewish Religious Community at 31 Kpt. Jaroše Street, the Jewish Grammar School at 43 Hybešova Street, the old people’s home at 54 Štefánikova Street and the Makkabi sports ground at Brno Riviera have been preserved, although they are mostly possessed by other owners and used for different purposes. The Nazis burnt down the Synagogue Maior from 1855 in 1939. The New Synagogue from 1906 was torn down in 1985/1986 and is now commemorated only by a memorial plaque mounted on the wall of the house at 8 Ponávka Street. Another building demolished in a similar fashion was the former Polish temple at 22 Křenová Street, which had been in use for religious purposes from 1883 till 1920s.
The Brno Jewish Cemetery is situated at 27 Nezamyslova Street in the Židenice district, 2.5 km south of the city centre. Founded in 1852, its area was expanded several times and nowadays it is divided into 40 sections. Its 7.4-acre premises consist of nearly 9,000 recent tombstones of various types, from simple steles to splendid family tombs (Fig.3). The cemetery is a place where you can visit the graves of a number of notable personalities who distinguished themselves in politics, culture, science and economics, such as rabbi Baruch Placzek and rabbi Richard Feder, the journalist Hieronymus Lorm, the benefactor Heinrich Gomperz and the actor Hugo Haas. By the cemetery entrance there is a Romanesque Revival house of mourning from 1900 by builder Josef Nebehosteny (Fig.4) with excavated fragments of mediaeval Jewish tombstones set in masonry inside the entrance hall. The Memorial to the Victims of the Holocaust, unveiled in 1950, can be found behind the house of mourning. The opening hours of the Jewish Cemetery are: Sunday through Thursday from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Fridays from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM during the summer season (from April to October). During the winter season (from November to March) the cemetery closes one hour earlier. The cemetery is closed to public on Saturdays and during Jewish holidays.
The Tugendhat Villa (Fig.5) built by the architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe for the Jewish Tugendhat family at 45 Černopolní Street is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Further information can be found at www.tugendhat-villa.cz. A monumental painting (8x2 m) titled “Jerusalem from the Olivet Mountain” by the painter Ludwig Blum is situated in the chapter hall of the Augustinian monastery at 1 Mendlovo (Mendel) Square.
Brno is the birthplace of many notable Jewish personalities from the domains of culture, arts, politics and enterprise such as the philosopher Theodor Gomperz (1832–1912), the writer Ernst Weiss (1882–1940, Paris), the composer E. W. Korngold (1897–1957, Hollywood), the violin virtuoso H. W. Ernst (1814–1865, Nice) and the painter Anna Ticho (1894–1980, Jerusalem). A memorial plaque, commemorating the deportations of Jewish citizens during the WWII was mounted on the front wall of the school at 37 Merhautova Street in 1965. Further information on Brno sights and landmarks can be found at www.ticbrno.cz.