Shtetl Routes. Vestiges of Jewish cultural heritage in cross-border tourism in borderland of Poland, Belarus and Ukraine


Shtetl Routes. Vestiges of Jewish cultural heritage in cross-border tourism in borderland of Poland, Belarus and Ukraine


NN Theatre

Brody - guidebook

Ukr. Броди, Yid. בראָד

Brody - guidebook

By the border

Brody is located between Galicia and Volhyn, where in the 19th century there was a border between Austria-Hungary and Russia. The borderland location was an advantage and helped foster the development of trade.

The first mention of Brody dates from 1084. In 1441, King Władysław III of Poland gave the castle in Olesko, together with the surrounding area, to the nobleman Sienieński, in recognition of the defence of Ruthenia. Sienieński became also the owner of Brody. In 1580, his descendants sold their estate to Stanisław Żółkiewski, which spurred the development of the city. On 22 August 1584, Brody received the Magdeburg rights and royal privileges, so that every Tuesday and Friday there were fairs; the city also benefited from the right to warehousing of goods and held 3 annual fairs. In 1629, the city became the possession of Hetman Koniecpolski, who brought the first Jews, Armenians, Greeks, Turks and weavers from the Flemish Region to Brody to revive the economy. Thanks to the newcomers, the production of carpets and tents began to develop and continued until the second half of the 18th century.

A year later, the construction of a large citadel began (1630–1635). The works were supervised by a Venetian architect Andrea dell'Acqua and Guillaume le Vesseur de Beauplan. After the outbreak of the Khmelnytsky Uprising in 1648, Brody was completely burned. The castle survived thanks to powerful fortifications and its location on a swampy terrain. Aleksander Koniecpolski gave the town to King John III Sobieski. He, in turn, gave it to his son Jakub, who sold Brody to the Potocki family in 1704.

In 1772, the town was under the Austrian rule and became a frontier city – first with the Commonwealth of Poland and from 1795, with the Russian Empire. In the second half of the 19th century, a railway route Rzeszow-Lviv-Brody ran through the city. Since 1779, the Austro-Russian border ran next to the city, so Brody became an important trading center. The Emperor of Austria Joseph II granter Brody the title of a "free city".

The Jews of Brody

Jews came to Brody during Hetman Koniecpolski's rule (16th century). In the 1648, approx. 400 Jewish families lived in the city. In 1664, the local qahal became independent from the Lviv Qahal. Since then, it had a significant impact on the Council of Four Lands. In 1696, the Jewish quarter burned down. In 1699, the owner of the town, James Louis Sobieski (son of King John III of Poland) allowed Jews to settle in all parts of the city and work in all crafts and trade. In the first half of the 18th century, Brody was plundered by the Russian army and the great fire destroyed the central part of the city in 1749.

Soon Brody were rebuilt with the support of the Jewish merchants. After the fire, the Armenians left the city and the Jews had no more competition; Brody has become one of the most important Jewish centres in Galicia.

The synagogues

In the first half of the 18th century, a wooden synagogue (from the 16th century) burned down during a fire. In 1742, the Jewish community decided to build a brick synagogue. The local authorities, pressured by the Lutsk Bishop, did not want to give permission to the construction and requested a payment of 350 zlotys a year for an annual maintenance of one student in the Lutsk Seminary. It was only when the Quahal consented to this condision; the construction of the great synagogue began, as evidenced by the inscription on the attica on the east side of the building.

The synagogue in Brody was one of the largest in Galicia. The fortified building was erected on a square plan. The main prayer hall was surrounded by lower outbuildings from the south, west and north.

In May 1859, the synagogue burned down in a fire that destroyed the greater part of Brody. At the beginning of the 20th century, renovation works were conducted.

The synagogue suffered considerably during World War II; outbuildings from the south and north were destroyed. In the middle of the 1960s, the building was renovated and the interior was adapted as a warehouse. Due to the leaking roof, the building was put out of use, which has led to its rapid ruin. In the summer of 1988, the western wall and the adjacent outbuilding collapsed. In February 2006, a part of the vaults also collapsed. Currenty, the synagogue is a ruin.

On the site of the building on Honcharska 10, there was once a so-called Small Synagogue. After the great fire at the beginning of the 19th century, the synagogue was restored (c. 1804), and received the name of a "New" synagogue. It was demolished shortly after World War II.

According to data from the census of synagogues conducted in 1826, in addition to the two mentioned synagogues, there were 6 others, ilcuding two wooden ones.

In 1756, in a synagogue in Brody, the Orthodox Jews condemned the Frankists and in 1772, they condemned the Hasidim, who were exiled from the city in the next years, аnd their books burned. Nevertheless, at the turn of the 18th and the 19th century, Brody became an important centre of the Hasidic culture.

In the 18th century, Brody was a famous Jewish center of the Kabbalah studies. There was the so-called "Broder kloyz" (a private kloyz, maintained by the family of Rabbi Jacob Babada), associated with the predecessors of the Hasidim – a group of rabbis forming a closed community dedicated to studying the Torah and the Kabbalah. Initially, they were against the Hasidic movement, but some of them became its followers. Although the ritual and the Kabbalistic practices were the same in both groups, the representatives of the first of them opposed to the dissemination of the Kabbalistic knowledge. However, with the creation and rapid development of Hasidism, an increasingly larger group of Jews joined this new movement. It should also be noted, that Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer Baal Shem-Tov himself lived in Brody for some time and married a daughter of a local merchant and scholar Ephraim Kutower. Before World War I, the local Hasidic Jews were closely involved with the Belz Hasidic dynasty. Its founder Shalom Rokeach was born in Brody in 1781.

For 50 years, the post of a dayan (a judge in the religious court) in Brody was held by Rabbi Shlomo Kluger (1785–1869), also known as the Magid of Brody. He was the author of 174 songs. Kluger was against the Haskalah. He died and was buried in Brody.


Shlomo Kluger (1785–1869) was a famous rabbi, Talmud expert, preacher, commentator and teacher of religion, one of the most prominent experts of the Torah in Galicia in the 19th century. He was born in the village of Komary in the Lublin governorate, which was then a part of the Russian Empire, to a family of a rabbi. From an early age, he showed an outstanding capacity to learn; he wrote his first commentary to the Torah at the age of 6. He was educated by Rabbi Yaakov Kranz in Zamość, known as the Magid of Dubno. In 1809, he was appointed the Rabbi of Kulykiv and in 1817, he became the Rabbi of Jozefiv (the Lublin governorate); in the summer of 1820, he was appointed the Rabbi of Brody. In 1845, he was offered the position of a rabbi in Berezhany. Despite requests from the local community, Rabbi Shlomo accepted this offer. Shortly after arriving to Berezhany, he fell ill with typhoid and doctors gave him no chances to survival. He promised to go back to Brody if he was ever to recover. He kept his promise and returned to Brody. He lived in Brody until old age (d. 1869).

Shlomo Kluger holds a special place in the rabbi literature of the Eastern Europe and Russia of the first half of the 19th century. Being an outstanding Talmudic and halachic authority, with vast knowledge and outstanding moral features, Kluger became the most popular rabbi not only in Galicia, where he lived and worked, but also in the Russian Empire. His opinion was valued by both the Hasidic Jews and the opponents of Hasidism – the Misnagdim.

At the end of the 18th century and at the beginning of the 19th century, the Jews of Brody, who maintained close business relationships with Germany, fostered the spread of the ideas of the Enlightenment (the Haskalah) in Galicia and then in the nearby territories of the Russian Empire. Because its supporters were associated with the German culture, Brody was thought to be the most germanized city in Galicia.

With the support of a well-known Galician Haskalah activist Herz Homberg, a Jewish general school, two lower-level schools and a school for girls were established in Brody. All these facilities, however, were closed by the Austrian Government in 1806. In 1815, the Quahal founded a 3-form school. The headmaster of the school was not a Jew, and religion was replaced with ethics according to the moral-religious reading for children Bnei Zion (Heb. The Sons of Zion) written by Homberg. The school had many enemies among the Orthodox Jews, who opened a rabbinical institute and invited a famous expert in the Talmud Grisha Heller. However, he had to leave Brody, because he was accused of teaching from forbidden books. Soon, also the institute was closed. In 1851, the general school was taken over by the state and converted into a middle school. Initially, there were no classes on Saturdays, and later, 3.5-hour Saturday classes were introduced. In 1847, a Jewish folk school was opened, and the post of the headmaster was held for many years by a famous pedagogue Leopold Herzel. In 1907–1908, he also taught religion in the middle school. During this period, the school had 688 students, including 273 Jewish children.

In the 19th century, Jews accounted for 88% of the population of the city. Brody was the largest city in Europe with such a large percentage of the Jewish population. In the first half of the 19th century, Brody was considered to be the second (after Lviv) town in Galicia in terms of its importance, and was often called the "Jerusalem of the Austro-Hungarian Empire" or the "Trieste on the continent". In the second half of the 19th century, the town became the largest trading center in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The importance of Brody as a centre of trade began to decline after 1879, when it lost the status of a "free city". However, its location on the border remained significant.

The Broder singers

The Broder singers (Yid. broder-zinger) is a term used since the middle of the 1950s in referrence to itinerant folk singers, performing in taverns, initially in Galicia, Bukovina and Transcarpathia, and later in many other cities. The first such group was gathered by D.B. Margulies of Podkamin near Brody, and another, equally well known, by B.Z. Ehrenkranz from Zbarazh, who began his musical career by writing songs. Over time, the singers formed a Jewish-German theatre-choir, whose impresario was Chaim Bendl. They performed in Lviv, at the Bombacha Inn. They sang folk and Hasidic songs, danced, performed one-act plays in Yiddish, whose authors are unknown (some are attributed to Grodner). The author of many of the new songs was Alik Cunajer; others were written by Zbarazher and Abraham Goldfaden, later regarded as the founder of the Jewish theatre. Some of the most prominent songwriters were Chune Sztrudler and Jon Rejzman. Performances gained great popularity among the Jews. In 1866–1868, the Broder singers performed in Warsaw, in the summer theatre in Nalewki. Guest artists from Vienna and Zhitomir took part in some performances. These artists are considered the initiators of the revival of old Jewish art of singing. Their performances, which were the first form of theatre performances (except the occasionally performed Purim plays), with the participation of professional singers-actors, are considered the origins of the modern Jewish theatre.

Based on:

Writer and journalist Joseph Roth (1894–1939) was born in Brody. In his home town, he graduated from high school and at the age of 19 he moved to Lviv, where he studied at the Faculty of Philology of the University of Lviv. He soon found himself at the epicenter of the Polish-Ukrainian-Jewish competition, which was then an ordinary phenomenon. He understood that he was interested in neither Polish nor Ukrainian nationalism, nor Zionism. It was then, that he decided to assimilate with the Austrian culture and become a writer in the German language. After his freshman year, Roth moved to the University of Vienna. Jewish themes are to a greater or lesser degree present in most of his works. His well-known novel Juden auf Wanderschaft (Ger. Wandering Jews) is a kind of ode to the "Оstjuden". One of his best works, Job, describes a shtetl in the Soviet Ukraine which the author visited as correspondent of a German newspaper at the beginning of the 1920s. The novel has been filmed. Marlene Dietrich, who knew Roth personally, regarded him as her favorite writer and Job as her favorite book.

The Spring of Nations

In 1848, the Spring of Nations began. Under the influence of these events, as well as of the Haskalah, new processes began in the Jewish community. For the first time, the Jews of Galicia had the opportunity to participate in political elections and citizen gatherings.

In the second half of the 19th century, Jewish newspapers were issued in Brody: "He-Halutz" (Heb. The Pioneer), a periodical issued in 1852–1889 in Hebrew (its publisher was Joshua Heschel Schorr) and "Ivri Anokhi" (Heb. I am a Hebrew), a weekly newspaper issued in 1865–1890 by Baruch and Jacob Weber.

In 1881, thousands of Jewish refugees from Russia who fled pogroms came to Brody. From Brody, they were transported in special trains to the Western Europe, and then to the United States.

When Galicia regained autonomy in 1659, the economical situation of Brody began to collapse due to the weakening of trade relations with Vienna. The Jewish secular inteligentsia and economic elite tried to defend the Austrian centralism, which led to the economic isolation of the city and weakening of its position in the region. This was seen especially on the example of a conflict around the issue of the German language as language of instruction in schools.

In Brody, there was a funeral society "Chesed in Emet" (Heb. Mercy and truth) and various Jewish associations e.g. charities like "Kimcha de Pischa” (Heb. Flour for Pesah), whose members handed out matzot to the poor during the Pesach Festival, and "Malbish Arumim" (Heb. Clothes for the needy).

Nathan Michael Gelber (1891–1966): Jewish historian and social activist, researcher of the history of the Jews in Galicia. He attended a middle school in Brody and studied at the universities of Berlin and Vienna. During World War I, he was an officer of the Austro-Hungarian army. At the beginning of 1919, he was a member of the Viennese delegation to the Jewish National Council of Galicia, operating in Stanyslaviv during the administration of the West Ukrainian People's Republic. In 1933, he moved from Vienna to Palestine. He was an activist in a social Zionist organization. He wrote the following works: Die Juden und der polnische Aufstand 1863 (Ger. Jews and the Polish Uprising 1863), The History of Jews from Stanislaviv, Brody 1584–1943, Geschichte des Zionismus in Galizien, 1875–1918 (Ger. The History of the Zionist Movement in Galicia) and a collection of articles devoted to the history of the Jewish community of Lviv, historical sketches, encyclopedias and collective works dedicated to the history of the Jews of Galicia – Stryi, Busk, Ternopil and others. He died in Jerusalem in 1966.

Dov Sadan (1902, Brody – 1989, Afula, Israel): Israeli scientist and politician, researcher of folklore and literature. In 1952–1970, he was the head of the Department of Yiddish Literature at the Jewish University in Jerusalem. In 1965–1968, he was a Member of the Knesset; laureate of the Israel Award in the field of Jewish studies in 1968.

Right after the outbreak of World War I, Brody was occupied by the Russian army. A pogrom took place. After the war, Brody was incorporated into Poland (1919); in the interwar period, it was a county town in the Tarnopil Voivodeship.

World War II and the Holocaust

In 1939, the city had 6 thousand inhabitants; over 3 thousand of them were Jewish. In September 1939, after the partition of Poland by the Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, the city became a part of the USSR. In July 1941, the German occupation began. On 12 July 1941, the Nazis and the Ukrainian collaborators shot 250 Jews in Brody. In the middle of July, on the orders of the occupation authorities, the Judenrat was established. The Germans opened a ghetto in the autumn of 1941. It included Brovarna and Slomiana. 12 thousand Jews from Brody and the surrounding villages (Sokolivka, Lopatyn and Olesko) were detained there.

The first deportation took place on 19 September 1942. According to various sources, between 2 and 4.5 thousand people were gathered at the market square in the centre of the city and deported to a death camp. During this action, many people who knew about the existence and the real purpose of the camp in Belzec, commited suicide. Many Jews were murdered in their homes or on the street. The second deportation was carried out on 2 November 1942; a group of 2.5-3 thousand Jews was sent to Belzec, including the members of the Judenrat and the Jewish police.

On 1 December 1942, the ghetto was enclosed by barbed wire. On the two streets of the ghetto still lived 4 thousand Jews from Brody and 3 thousand Jews from the surrounding towns and villages. All contacts between the ghetto and the rest of the city were categorically prohibited. A daily food ration of bread was 80 g. Soon, typhoid epidemic broke out in the ghetto. In the winter of 1942/1943, approx. 1.5 thousand people died of hunger and diseases.

At the beginning of 1943, a resistance group was organised led by Samuel Weilerem. However, it failed to organize the uprising in the ghetto.

The final liquidation of the ghetto began on 21 May 1943. Members of the resistance opened fire on the camp guards. In response, the guards began a massive shelling of the entire ghetto. Many Jews burned alive; others were shot on the streets and in the forest near the town. In the resulting chaos, many Jews managed to escape from the ghetto, joined a group of Jewish guerillas led by Weiler and survived the war. During the liquidation of the ghetto, the remaining 3 thousand people were transported to the death camp in Sobibor. Out of the 10-thousand Jewish population of Brody, only 88 people survived the Holocaust.

The cemetery

Most of the matzevahs at the new Jewish cemetery in Brody – the largest in Galicia – are from the second half of the 19th century. Despite the devastation caused by the wars, it is one of the best preserved Jewish cemeteries in Ukraine. Currenty, there are approx. 5.5 thousand matzevahs. The oldest belongs to Judah, son of Meir (d. 1833). Just behind the fence, in the west, there is a mass grave of approx. 6 thousand people shot there in the Holocaust.

Brody was severly affected during both world wars. The Roman Catholic temple was closed for 50 years, while the faithful attended parish churches of Zolochiv and Ternopil. Close to the city walls, there are two churches in the Baroque style. Bare walls are the only reminder of the famous synagogue. Before the outbreak of World War II, there were 86 Jewish religious buildings. To this day, only a half-destroyed Great Synagogue and the building of a former 19th-century synagogue on Shchurata Street 9 have remained. The latter has lost all the characteristics of its former style when it was turned into a shop in the summer of 2006.

Worth seeing

  • Jewish cemetery (19th century), Chuprynky

  • Synagogue (18th century), Goncharska

  • Ruins of the castle (17th century), along with the Potocki Palace (18th century), Zamkova

  • Fortified Orthodox Church of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary (1600), Ivana Franky 12

  • Orthodox Church of the Holy Trinity (1726), Velyky Filvarky 23

  • Orthodox Church of St. George, (16th–17th century), Yiuriyivska

  • Catholic Church (1596), W. Stusa 9

  • Chamber of Commerce and Industry (19th century), Kociubynskoho 8

  • Building of the former Imperial-Royal County Office(18th century); seat of the Museum of Local History in Brody; Majdan Svobody 5

  • "Zastawki" forest, the site of an Old Ruthenian city mentioned in old chronicles

In the vicinity

Olesko (28 km): ruins of the synagogue (18th century); castle (16th century), now a museum; Church of the Holy Trinity (1545)

Berestechko (35 km): former synagogue (18th century); stone pillar on the grave of Prince Alexander Pronski (16th century); Church of the Holy Trinity (17th century); Museum of the Battle of Berestechko (1651)


Author: Bozhena Zakaliuzna, Anatoliy Kerzhner