Credit: Encarni Martinez Lopez - BD

Vila Arnold Reopens, Revealing Brno Jewish Community History

Since the beginning of this year, Vila Arnold, located near the other vilas Tugendhat and Löw-Beer, has been open only during special tours with a limited capacity. From tomorrow, it will finally open its doors for everyone from Friday to Sunday, from 10am to 6pm, while the last step of the reopening, from 21 May, will see the villa opening every day except Monday at the same hours; the villa’s garden will also be fully operational and connected to Drobného and the garden of villa Löw-Beer (until now it has only been possible to access the villa from Černopolní).

A press conference was held yesterday to celebrate the reopening, in the presence of Zbyněk Šolc, director of the Brno City Museum, and the curators of the Villa Exhibitions: Aleš Filip, an art historian at Masaryk University, and Pavel Kocman, a researcher at the Jewish Museum in Prague. The chairman of the Jewish community of Brno, Jáchym Kanárek, also took part in the inauguration speeches, while a musical accompaniment was provided by Hana Bednaříková and her violin.

Credit: Encarni Martinez Lopez – BD

Those attending the event were able to see a preview of the exhibitions, focused on the history of the villa and its owners and the Jewish community of Brno. Some panels will also be placed in the Villa’s garden when its renovation is completed.

The villa has a long story that intertwines with that of the Jewish community. The villa was built in 1862 by architect Josef Arnold as a summer residence above Lužánky park in a Swiss style, particularly noticeable in its tower. It was later sold to various owners until it became property of Cäcilie Hože, the wife of the wealthy Brno lawyer and businessman Cornelius Hože, in 1909. 

The Hože family started a series of modifications and extensions in the late Art Nouveau geometric style that made it fit for permanent residence. Most of these elements have been preserved in the villa up to the present day. Back then the garden had the character of an English park, with gazebos, alcoves, and garden furniture. 

Credit: Encarni Martinez Lopez – BD

Cäcilie Hože, of Jewish origin, was the older sister of businessman Alfred Löw-Beer, who thanks to her got to know the area above Lužánky, and in 1913 bought the terraced house that now bears his surname, and a substantial plot of land around it. 

Alfred’s daughter Greta received the upper part of the plot as a wedding gift, on which she and her husband Fritz Tugendhat built the famous modernist villa in 1929, now a UNESCO heritage site. The three families and villas coexisted happily until 1939, when the Nazis took control of Czechoslovakia and began persecuting the Jewish population. The villas were confiscated and many members of the families, including Cäcilie Hože, died in concentration camps.

After being used for different purposes in the post-war decades, including as a kindergarten, the villa fell into disrepair, and structural damage threatened the survival of the building. Thanks to the efforts of local politicians and the Josef Arnold Cultural Centre Association the property was declared a cultural heritage site in 2010, but the renovation project only finally started at the end of 2021, with the help of the City of Brno and international funds.

Credit: Encarni Martinez Lopez – BD

Villa Arnold is now part of the properties of the Brno City Museum, along with Villa Tugendhat, Špilberk Castle, and the Měnín Gate. The museum will offer three guided tours per day – only in Czech for now – with admission prices starting from 85 CZK, while basic entrance prices range from 45 to 70 CZK.

The reopening of the villa thus represents a happy ending to the suffering of Brno’s Jewish community; when the renovation is completed, the gardens of the Hože/Arnold, Löw-Beer, and Tugendhat villas will be connected and reunited again, and Vila Arnold will become the permanent home to a Centre for Dialogue, focused on Czech-Jewish-German relations. 

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