The Jewish Settlement in Bruenn
From approximately 1850
Our constant effort, to publish historical justice on our website, we have to consider the existence and the fate of our previous Jewish fellow-citizens. An exiled German of Bruenn, born 1919, is describing the historical connections. His description starts in the middle of the 19th Century and informs us about the eventful history of the jewish town inhabitants of Bruenn, until the end of the Czechoslovakia existence, caused by the “German Reich”, establishing the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. What then happened to the Jews - the world came to know about it much later: They had to endure, what caused a national, socialistic racial madness, namely the extermination of the Jews.
Introduction by Erich Pillwein
I am writing this report, because I belong to the generation, which was born at the end of WW I and the creation of the Czechoslovakia. We were not aware of anything – and I mention this as important –, of what happened since 1933 with the Jews in the “Deutsches Reich”. We were young, did not read any Newspapers, and if we did, it was mostly the sport news, not the political section. We had Jewish school-fellows and were friends with some. I had a Jewish boss during the years of my dental apprendiceship, which gave me a deep understanding of the Jewish life.
We became more familiar with the life of the Germans during the Olympics in Berlin in 1936. But not only us, as we were present – and I with 17 years of age–, came enthusiastic back. The whole world was jubilant. The African-American Jesse Owens ran a 100 m world record. The French greeted Hitler with the Hitler-sign, when they entered the stadium.
We did not realize right away Germanys change under the Nazi – regime to a state of lies and cruelty, as we would call it today. The regime was probably also able to cover up traces of the past, since nobody heard anything in Berlin about any kind of a persecution of the Jews. We recognized this in Bruenn in 1939, after the marching of the German troops into Czechoslovakia and the establishment of the Protectorate.
Gestapo and other arriving forces from Germany, caused suddenly our Jewish school-fellows to disappear and Jews of the public life were banished. We could see them on the street with a yellow star on their clothes. Nothing was said or explained, everything was done secretly. Any question was answered “The Jews are going into a labor camp.”
Time about since 1850 —
The beginning of the Jewish Cult – Association in Bruenn.
The relatively small group of Jews, decided to establish a Cult-association in Bruenn.
Not many Jews lived in Bruenn, though some were highly respected and influential. Some of them asked for admission into the “Bruenn Homeland Society”, because this way, they had a chance to ask for permission, to start a community. They formed a 9 member committee, which was supposed to build a Cult Association. The most important task was, the erection of a temple, a Jewish Cemetery and the convocation of a Rabbi.
In 1852 was a Jewish cemetery opened and the deceased Jews did not have to get buried in outward cemeteries. In 1856 was the temple finished. (Other documents even report the inauguration in September 1855). It was an enormous feat. The readiness to give, lend or advance money, was considerably .The satisfaction about the way the magnificent Synagogue was attained, was universal and big. In 1952 was the cemetery opened and the deceased Jews did not have to be taken to a foreign cemetery. 1856 was the temple finished. (Other reports give the year 1855 as the dedication year). It was a tremendous effort of the Jewish Association of Bruenn. The readiness to give money freely and also give money in advance, was considerable. The satisfaction over the most beautiful erected Synagoge, was big and universal.
Bruenn had in 1857 almost 60.000 habitants, of which 2.230 were Jews, but only few members of the Cult. From great importance was then the Banker and Cloth-Manufacturer Max Gomperz, the later Ritter of Gomperz. He was supported by others to stand by, in case it should come to discriminating orders.
There was still a Rabbi missing, who was found after advertising and interviews in Dr.Baruch Placzek. The directorate was very busy, thinking about the teaching question, because the government was of the opinion, since there were enough Elementary schools around, it was unnecessary, to build an own Jewish school. The existing private schools were moved to the Elementary school of St.Jacob at the Salzamt- street, where the Cult-Association, through the municipal council received free rooms.
The Constitution Laws of 1867
had the regulation of the legal proceedings of the religious associations allowed, but it was 1890, until the necessary law was created, which regulated the exterior legal proceedings of the Jews.
Bruenn had at this time 7000 Jews and their task consisted of establishing factories, some industries, trade, banks, medicine, lawyers, builders, architects and engineers.
Through the increase of the population, the temple became overfilled. The director found a suitable piece of property at the Glacis, where in 1905/06, it was possible, to build a second temple.
World War I
brought also for the Cult many difficulties, especially financial shortness. It was the reason, why an urgent enlargement of the Jewish cemetery did not take place. Finally, in 1926, was it possible to buy two fields for the enlargement. The Jewish municipality earned merits, taking care of Jewish refugees, which had fled from Russia and Galicia, to reach Bruenn. At that time, donations of 400.000 crowns and a large amount of materiel goods came together.
After the breakdown of the Austrian Monarchy,
the Czech Republic was proclaimed and changes in the Cult Society had to be made. New fundamental laws were made, elections took place in 1921 and Samuel Beran became president. The administration of the Cult Society decided to become bilingual. This was taken into consideration, since a growing number of Jewish children went to Czech Elementary and Middle-class schools. It came also during this time to a certain split. To the already before the war existing associations, came the new association “Jewish School” which proved to establish this school, located in the Hybesch- street. It consisted of a 5 year Elementary and of a 8 year High School. The number of the pupils were 1927/28 136 in the Elementary and 177 in the Gymnasium. The Czech language was since 1928 already the teaching language. To be bilingual, showed up also, when the Czech Jews founded two associations: “Svaz Čecho-Židů” and “Českožidovský akademický spolek Kapper“.
The headcount of the Jewish citizens in Bruenn in 1928 was 10.904. The community had two Synagogues and one cemetery at their disposal. She was soon declared as a model community. She owed this to the ambition of the Moravian decision making group, just as much as to the solitariness and spirit of self-sacrifice of the community members. This was the reason, why the seat of the Moravian Jewish property administration, which administered the joint property of the Moravian Jews and of the Moravian Cult Societies, was also located in Bruenn.
Reference: Hugo Gold: “The Jews and Jewish Municipality of Moravia in the past and now.”