The capital of Moravia was always a cultural melting pot and from the 13th century onwards a Jewish community began to settle in the city. Today you can trace the history of Brno’s Jews, see the only synagogue to have survived and view the Jewish cemetery. Also one of the finest examples of modern architecture, and a UNESCO world cultural heritage site, awaits you here, commissioned by a Jewish couple, the Tugendhats.
The history of Brno’s Jews has been turbulent. The original medieval Jewish quarter with its synagogue and cemetery disappeared when the Jews were banished from the city in the mid-15th century. The modern history of community begins 300 years later and in the interwar years Brno had around 12,000 Jewish inhabitants. The community was rejuvenated after the horrors of WWII and it now administers Jewish life across South Moravia.
The stern beauty of a Functionalist synagogue
In Brno you would have once found four synagogues, but today there is just one. You can see it in Skořepka Street near the city centre. At first sight the building may shock you with its stern Functionalist appearance – it was built in the 1940s, making it the newest synagogue in Moravia and Silesia and the only one left in the region serving its original function. A wander around Brno may lead you to other Jewish institutions such as the Jewish school on Hybešova Street, the old people’s home on Štefánikova Street and the Makkabi na Riviéře sports ground, though most of these now serve other purposes.
Final resting place for Jewish personalities
Brno also has a Jewish cemetery – you’ll find it in the suburb of Židenice around 2.5km from the city centre. Today you can amble among 9,000 gravestones in a wide array of styles, from simple headstones to ostentatious family tombs. If you read the names on the stones carefully you’ll find many a Jewish personality from the realms of politics, culture and science.
A UNESCO-listed Jewish gem
No one could ever leave Brno without seeing its greatest architectural treasure. Head to Černopolní Street to find this timeless masterpiece by architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Here stands the famous Villa Tugendhat, built for a Jewish couple called Tugendhat. The Functionalist villa, which set the modern living style bar high for all those who came afterwards, is a fixture in every textbook of architecture.