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Breclav

The Břeclav region is known for the abundance of its cultural monuments and landmarks, set in the beautiful landscape of the Lednice-Valtice Area which has been registered as a UNESCO-protected World Heritage site since 1996. Relics of the presence of Jewish communities are sometimes overlooked amongst the many landmarks of this region, although they can be seen not only in Mikulov (where an educational Jewish history trail was established in 2000) and Podivín, but also in Břeclav. 

The first written mention of the Jews in Břeclav dates back to the year 1414, when the records of the Liechtenstein estates show the names of Jews who settled in the region. A larger Jewish community with a synagogue and a cemetery developed, by the end of the 16th century. In 1572, the general synod of Moravian Jews took place in Břeclav, headed by the renowned Rabbi Yehuda Löw ben Bezalel (then of Břeclav). During the Thirty Years’ War, the Jewish community was totally destroyed. Only the period name meaning “abandoned Jewish place” remains today. The second settlement of Jews in Břeclav took place in 1651, when the master of the town admitted a considerable group, which had been banished from nearby Valtice. By 1702, thirty Jewish families occupied twelve houses. A royal decree from 1726 ruled that 66 officially sanctioned Jewish families would be permitted to reside in Břeclav. After the Jews acquired their civil rights in the mid-nineteenth century, they moved from outside villages into Břeclav, further increasing its population. Upon the creation of independent Czechoslovakia, the separate Jewish political community was abolished in 1919. The terror of Nazi racial genocide during the Second World War was the tragic end of the centuries-long presence of the Jews in this region. Two scholarly rabbis worked in Břeclav – Mordecai Benet (from 1787 to 1789) and Heinrich Schwenger (from 1911 to 1913). Břeclav was also the birthplace of Julius Lieban (1857-1940), the opera singer. The Kuffner family, owners of the local sugar mill, was some of the most prominent figures on the local economic scene.

The Jewish Quarter in Břeclav was situated to the south of the main square towards Dubič. It was composed of four streets - Templová, Lázeňská, Jateční and Sladová. Jewish houses were typically smaller than usual in size and built very close together so as to make use of every last inch. They were usually erected without any outbuildings or gardens. A part of the area has fortunately avoided destruction (24 out of the original 72 houses) and has been preserved up to the present in a modernized form. Next to the Synagogue, the building of the former Jewish elementary school, used until 1923, has been preserved. A Jewish abattoir was situated in the house at 1 Lázeňská Street, and the ritual purification bath was housed at 17 Lázeňská Street. The Old Synagogue was destroyed in 1643 by the Swedes and replace by the New Synagogue in 1671-1672. However, this poorly-made building collapsed in 1697 and a new sanctuary was erected on the same spot. However, by the second half of the 19th century this building proved too small to hold all of the then increased population of Jews and in 1868 it was replaced by a new temple financed by the mayor, David Kuffner. In 1888 it was renovated by Max Fleischer, a renowned Viennese architect, in a Neo-Roman style, using Moorish elements in the interior. The inner space is topped with a flat ceiling made of beautifully decorated beams. For as much as fifty years the Synagogue was used as a storage place. From 1997-1999 it underwent complete reconstruction and is now used for cultural and social purposes. In addition to housing a standing display on local Jewish history and the town of Břeclav, it also serves as a gallery of fine arts, concert hall and venue for numerous other events 

The Jewish cemetery can be found in Veslařská Street, around 700 metres north of the main square. It was probably founded after the mid-seventeenth century, as can be concluded from its irregular shape and elevation from the adjacent ground. Its area of 7,136 m2 is covered with approximately 400 gravestones, the oldest ones from the beginning of the 18th century. The shape and structure of the tombstones, the oldest are those of “South-Moravian” or “Mikulov” types, with rich three-dimensional Baroque decorations, sometimes with relief symbols relating to the deceased. The eastern part of the Cemetery, next to the entrance, is dominated by the majestic tomb of the Kuffner family. The burial ground is fenced around with a partially preserved wall of fair-faced brickwork and glazed moulded bricks from Poštorná. Together with the former ceremonial hall and the house of the gravedigger, which were built in the same style and using the same materials, it forms a unique complex of rare aesthetic effect. The premises of the Cemetery, completed in 1892 according to the design of Franz Neumann, a Viennese architect, are typical of the Břeclav region. In the 1980s, the Cemetery was heavily damaged, but the town of Břeclav had it repaired in the early 1990s, having expended 1.5 million crowns for this purpose. 

Břeclav is a town offering its hospitality and friendly face, a town found in the middle of green floodplain forests. 

Břeclav may be both: destination and departure point. It is a perfect starting point for trips to its varied surroundings. One of the advantages of Břeclav is its great accessibility both by car and train, making it a true gate to South Moravia, a portal to various worlds. An asphalt road leads to modern civilization, and a cobbled path into a sequestered world of Jewish culture only slowly opening to the present. You can step onto the path leading from the Great Moravian settlements associated with the beginnings of Christianity, back to the present Christian world, represented by the Church of St. Wenceslas, on Břeclav’s square.The floodplain forest, growing along the banks of the Dyje and Morava Rivers, spreads over 3,500 hectares and is the largest of its kind in Europe. These forests, interwoven with channels, dead branches and pools, in a unique area in Europe and as such were registered to the Ramsar Convention list in 1993 as "Wetlands of the Dyje River Lower Course". 

Břeclav, situated on the Dyje River floodplain, is surrounded on the north-west side by Kančí obora (Boar Park), a floodplain forest with a dominance of hardwood plantation, featuring oak and narrow-leafed ash. From the south, the most extensive complex of floodplain forests, spreading as far as the junction of Dyje and Morava Rivers, with partly preserved floodplain meadows and pools, almost touches the town; immediately to the west is the south-east edge of the National Nature Reserve, "Lednice Ponds".

Breclav

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