The Rise And Fall of Brody

If you travel about 90 kilometers northeast of Lemberg, You will find the city of Brody in Ukraine. Archaeological digs have revealed that this area has long been inhabited by humans, but the first written mention of Brody can be found in Kievan Rus documents dating back to 1084. Shortly after coming under the jurisdiction of the Polish commonwealth, Brody was considered to be an 'ideal' city by the Polish aristocracy. The city came to be governed by Magdeburger municipal law in 1584 and before long, a large number of Armenians, Scots, Greeks and Jews had migrated here. By the late 18th century a significant portion of the population of Brody was Jewish. The Jewish population served to boost trade in the form of the shipment of raw materials from Poland, Lituania and Russia. This ultimately led to Brody becoming one of the richest and most important cities in Poland. Brody also played an important role as the center of Orthodox Judaism.

After the first division of Poland in 1772, Brody went through a period of difficulty. This was later rectified when some 264 square kilometers of land was set-aside as a foreign trade zone by Maria Theresia in 1779. The move resulted in massive increases in trade, allowing Brody to becoming one of the most important commercial centers in both Central and Eastern Europe. About ten years later, the government saw fit to finally provide tax rebates to the citizens of Brody. This enabled them to rebuild their homes and start new businesses. At this time the city mainly traded in hemp, linen, wax, honey and tobacco. These goods were exchanged for items such as cotton linen, French silk, spices, beads, jewels, sugar, wool, feathers, springs, horses and fur – depending on which country Brody was trading with at the time. During the Napoleonic wars, Brody was considered to be the most important importer of colonial goods. Many of these goods were smuggled over the border due to the fact that a ban had been placed on the import of such items at the time. In the late 1900s, Brody started to suffer a decline. This started with the Viennese congress putting certain restrictions in place and ended with the eradication of the free trade patent in 1879. The city was ill prepared to cope with this since it had virtually no industry. Another massive blow was dealt to the city during WW II when almost all the Jewish inhabitants of the city were put into Ghettos only to be murdered or deported. Of the 10,000 Jews living in Brody prior to WW II, only 88 people survived long enough to see the liberation of their people.

Prior to WWII, Brody had come to play a pivotal role as a center of German-Jewish education. A number of famous Jewish Ukrainian people were educated here, excelling at professions such as mathematics, writing, chess and piano. Today, Brody is situated in the Lviv Oblast of Ukraine. It is not quite the center of trade that it once was, but it has become a popular tourist attraction. One may feel a cold shiver run down your spine as you tour the town and the cemetery and hear tales of how the Jews once suffered so cruelly in a town that once prospered so much mainly due to their ingenuity and business savvy. So visit Brody and learn more about this fascinating city.

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