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All over Europe, there are homes that Jewish people fled in the years leading up to World War II. One such place is Villa Stiassni in Brno, Czech Republic. The home of the Stiassni family has now been restored to how it was before they were forced to leave the country in 1938.

Villa Stiassni (official website) is located in the western part of Brno in the Pisárky district. It’s about a 45-minute walk up and down hills to get there. Taking a tram (Tram 1) is a much better option, though there is still a short uphill walk from Pisárky station. The villa has an entry fee and is typically open Friday through Monday, with guided tours on the hour. 

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History of Villa Stiassni

Villa Stiassni was constructed between 1927 & 1929 for Jewish textile manufacturer Alfred Stiassni. The primary architect of the property was Ernst Wiesner, who incorporated the landscape into the design. A different architect, Franz Wilfert, worked on the building’s interiors.

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The Stiassni family would get to live in their dream home for just 9 years. In 1938, they were forced to flee before the impending German invasion, never to return. They first moved to London, then to Brazil, then eventually to the United States.

Villa Stiassni changed hands several times during the ensuing decades. First, it was taken by the German police. After World War II, it became a Czech government property (but not before the Soviet army stole all the decor). The villa was used to accommodate important visitors, including Czech presidents and officials, as well as other foreign leaders, including Fidel Castro. The National Heritage Institute later took over Villa Stiassni, restoring it to its original state & opening the property for tours in 2014.

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Villa Stiassni Tour

Ernst Weisner’s Modernist architectural style focused on purism & functionalism. This meant that the external parts of the villa have very few decorations. The building features sandstone frames around the windows, along with travertine columns and door frames.

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Villa Stiassni has two wings. One was for the family, while the other was for staff. The gardener’s house was behind the property.

The Villa Stiassni tour starts out in the shared areas of the ground floor, first passing through the dressing room, a small room near the entrance.

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Then, visitors go through the dining room.

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The next room is the sitting room.

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This is followed by Alfred Stiassni’s office.

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Hermine Stiassni, Alfred’s wife, also had her own sitting room. Her paintings of the property helped historians with the villa’s restoration, as nearly all of the decor had been lost. She had worked closely with Franz Wilfert on the original designs.

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The rooms have now been restored to look as close as possible to how they did when the Stiassni family left. Villa Stiassni is once again filled with beautiful wood furniture from that era.

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Upstairs, the family’s private space filled the first floor. Alfred’s dressing room, with its dark mahogany and orange wood, is a highlight.

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Being the owner of a textile company, Alfred Stiassni loved clothes, shoes, and accessories. He would even go so far as to put slips of paper into the pockets of his clothing that listed who had seen him wearing that outfit so he could wear something new for them each time.

Alfred had a large bathroom. He would also work out in the space.

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The couple slept separately in adjoining bedrooms. Visiting Czech presidents would later sleep in Alfred’s bedroom.

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Hermine’s bedroom is the next stop on the tour, followed by her wardrobe room & her bathroom. The bathroom was not refurbished but rather left in its state from the 1980s.

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The tour of Villa Stiassni then visits the apartment of Susanne Stiassni, Alfred and Hermine’s daughter. According to our tour guide, Susanne found secret family diaries when she was in her 50s or 60s. Alfred was not able to have kids, so her biological father was actually a friend of Hermine’s.

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Susanne’s apartment was a large space that even included her own terrace overlooking the garden. She lived at Villa Stiassni during her childhood years from ages 6 to 15. She was never able to return for a visit to the villa, although her children have visited.

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Finally, the tour concludes in the staff wing. This interior section was designed by Ernst Wiesner, so it’s the same style as the exterior.

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Outside, there are gardens originally designed by Otto Eisler, along with a pool.

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Along the walk back to the tram station from Villa Stiassni, be on the lookout for a brass marker on the ground. These plaques are called stolpersteine and can be found across Europe. Each one commemorates a Holocaust victim. The name inscribed on this memorial is Frederike Stiassni. On March 31st, 1942, the 87-year-old was taken from her home. Just weeks later, Frederike was murdered. She was Alfred’s mother.

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As sad as it is to think about how Alfred Stiassni and his wife & daughter were forced to leave their dream home at Villa Stiassni, they were actually the fortunate ones. Others were not as lucky to flee the grasp of the Nazis.

For more nearby history, visit the Ossuary at St. James Church and the Brno Capuchin Crypt.

Here are some great Brno tours & activities & other things to see & do in Brno.

If you’re looking for a place to stay in Brno, check out these hotels.

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