Until the middle of the 19th century, Bruenn was just a small town, surrounded by many suburbs. 27 of those were incorporated in 1851 and by then, Bruenn had developed into the largest city of Moravia. At that time, Bruenn was managed by German mayors, until 1918. More information can be found under "The German Mayors of Bruenn."
This dominance lasted for more than five centuries and resulted in disadvantages for the Czech population. Unfortunately, this contributed to national tensions.
The German mayors promoted, without doubt, the development to become a city, through the installation of many public institutions. They repaired and built new roads, installed street lights and laid gas and water lines and drainage. Industrial development advanced rapidly, reflecting the prosperity of the city.
The historical center of the city was predominantly occupied by Germans for a long time. The labor force of the factories and workshops consisted mainly of the Czech population. They arrived daily from the suburbs of the city.
The development of the city involved predominantly German contractors and specialists. They were acting in the development of the city.
Textile industry The cultural life in Bruenn
Heavy industry Theatrical events-City Theater
The products of the German weavers of Bruenn were already known during the middleage, because of their good quality. The people of Bruenn were able to cope with the emerging problems of the mechanical revolution and moved into the "Industrial age" with the help of tax income. It was taken care of by the Habsburg Queen Maria Theresia and also by her son, Josef II, her successor. Both promoted the building of factories in Bruenn, also using tax income.
Experts were brought in from Germany and through their expertise, many flourishing businesses were formed. The demand for their products rose through the Continental Blockade during Napoleon's War, but declined after his defeat. Hence, the import of British cloth flooded the continent again. The textile industry of Bruenn encountered heavy setbacks, and so they realized, there was a great need for better machinery. As a result, intense promotion of local machine fabrication arose. Not only improved weaving looms and textile machinery were built, but also the first (Austrian built) steam engine was introduced.
The leading manufacturer of heavy equipment became "The Machinery Manufacturer of Bruenn". In 1881 they achieved big success by producing a fast-running steam engine which generated electricity. Soon thereafter, machines of this type were being used around the world in electrical power plants. "The Machinery Manufacturer of Bruenn" received the Grand Prix award and a medal at the Parisian World Exhibition for this invention.
The firm "Bruenn's Koenigsfelder engine factory" also built steam engines, boilers, railroad cars and equipment for Petroleum refineries in Europe and overseas.
The Storek Company promoted a University professor inventor of Bruenn, named Viktor Kaplan. He developed a very efficient turbine, which became a great success. The state-owned repair shops for the military's Artillery unit moulted to one of the largest armories of the world. After 1918 it was named in Czechoslovakia "Zbrojovka". During WWII, the workers diligently produced weapons for Hitler's army. After the war, they played a tragic role in the brutal expulsion of the German population.(Please refer to the chapter "The end of the German Bruenn" for more information.)
In 1862 was a Chamber of Commerce and an Industrial Chamber established in Bruenn. The members received advice on pertinent Issues from various meritorious men, who were in charge, such as Ritter von Gomperz, Gustav Ritter von Schoeller and others. The domestic development was directed by a bank institution, by the name of "Erste Mährische Sparkasse", which was established in 1852, under the auspice of mayor Ritter von Haberler. Industry, trade and agricultural loans were obtainable. The institution did not neglect the social needs and awarded considerable sums to schools, churches, public institutions and to the childrens? hospital.
The cultural life in Bruenn.
During the second half of the 19th century, under the regime of the Habsburg Monarchy, the Slavic race strove for increased independence. Their goal was to form their own Slavic State. When the Monarchy fell apart at the end of WW I in 1918, their wish became reality. Naturally, political tensions arose in the first years; but cultural tensions between the Germans and the Czechs in Bruenn, were also known in previous decades.
The Czechs held cultural events in their "Club House" (Besedni dům),which was erected in the center of the city. Later on, at the end of the 19th century, the Germans came up with a similar idea. An industrialist by the name of Wanniek planned to build such a house and received support of several organizations in Bruenn. On May 21, 1891, the stately building was finished and could be inaugurated.
This building was of redbrick structure, similar to many City Halls at that time. It was located in an area where once a fortification stood. Inside were three large rooms, of which the largest on the upper floor could accommodate almost 2,000 people. It was here, where the German Theater was housed after 1918, because the Czechs limited the use of the City Theater, which many years before, was built by the Germans (see "The City Theater").
For over 50 years, the "German House" was a true and friendly companion for two generations, through good times and later on also in bad times. Practically all Germans enjoyed festive presentations in the luxurious, dignified atmosphere. Shortly before the end of WW II, the building burned down and German POW's and forced laborers had to level it completely.
But let's go back to the early years of the young Czech Republic. One can see how, especially in the architecture and the graphic arts, a new, enthusiastic spirit filled the Czech cultural class, feeling now free of the pressure of the previous regime. This enthusiasm even captured the hearts and minds of some Germans and Jews. Unfortunately, these cultural contacts of the two nationalities became overshadowed later on by national differences. It came to the point, when the Germans had to fight to protect their own ethnological installations and organizations.
In 1921, the "German Association of Science and Art" successfully erected an own building and installed there, a so called "People College". The high cultural level of the Germans over the years was kept preserved and stayed intact.
All things considered, the Germans and Czechs were able to live peacefully together in Bruenn, which was not the case in other parts of the Republic. Over decades and centuries the slogan "Live and let live" was followed. Only the growing nationalism on both sides ended the peace.
The City Theaters and theatrical events.
Theatrical events in Bruenn go back to 1669. The first Opera House was built of wood in 1734. Fire destroyed it thrice and it was twice rebuilt. Authorities decided after the third fire, to rebuild it sturdier and statelier. The Mayor of Bruenn at that time was Gustav Winterholler, and he, who earned great honor for his work in general, promoted the construction. (read more under "Mayors of Bruenn").
German townsmen and manufacturers came up with the necessary resources and it became the first theater in Europe with electrical illumination. Alva Edison, the inventor and builder of the first glow-lamp, was present at the opening and had come from the United States to attend this event. The festivity was delayed though, as the responsible technician had been drinking excessively. He was overcome by the importance and responsibility of this feat and therefore was not able to act.
The new, well equipped theater was opened festively and blessed on November 1882.
Now it was possible for countless, important artists to become members of the ensemble or as a guest to perform.
A combined effort with the Vienna Opera developed successfully. The Opera in Bruenn became the spring board for many important artists to Vienna and other parts of the world. Maria Jeritza and Leo Slezak were always welcome to appear at the New York Metropolitan Opera.
The theater also kept its reputation in Czechoslovakia, even though it was just two nights of the week to enjoy it by the Germans. During the occupation by the "German Reich" (Protectorate Bohemia and Moravia), the Germans of Bruenn became complete property of them, even the war caused certain difficulties and restrictions. All that ended with the expulsion of the Germans.