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Brociner Family

Intellectual family, active in Romanian law, the arts, and the military during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The four Brociner brothers were born in Iaşi into a well-to-do maskilic family of Galician origin; they were related to Galician and Moldavian rabbinic families. Joseph B. Brociner (1846–1918) was a legal expert; Marco Brociner (1852–1942) a writer; Mauriciu Brociner (1855–1946) a military leader; and Andre Brociner (1856–1930) a communal activist.

Joseph B. Brociner was a jurist, publicist, fighter for Jewish emancipation, and a communal activist. After obtaining a law degree from the University of Iaşi, he moved to Galați and worked in the railway sector. He reestablished the Jewish community of Galați and was its first president (1876). At the same time, he maintained relationships with several Romanian politicians, including foreign minister Vasile Boerescu, who accompanied him to Paris in 1879 and introduced him to Adolphe Crémieux in an attempt to promote the emancipation of Romanian Jews. Brociner was a moderate, accepting the idea of partial emancipation of several thousand Jews at first, with the plan to increase the numbers gradually. He also supported the Ḥoveve Tsiyon movement.

In 1893, on the recommendation of Lascăr Catargiu, the Romanian prime minister, Brociner prepared a proposal for the legal organization, function, and official recognition of Jewish communities as modern associations and religious councils. This document, supported by interior minister Vasile Lascăr, was presented to the parliament in 1897, but was not approved. In 1893, Brociner also organized the first congress of Romanian Jewish communities (which took place in Galați) and in 1901, at a second congress (in Iaşi), he founded Uniunea Comunităților Israelite (Union of Israelite Communities), a formal association of all the communities.

In 1908, Brociner established Societatea Israeliților Români (Society of Romanian Israelites), whose purpose was to spread knowledge about Jews of Romania; he aimed to demonstrate that Jews had been an indigenous community in the country. Accordingly, he gathered numerous documents, proving a Jewish presence in Romanian principalities during the Middle Ages. He then published the documents in several collections; among them, Chestiunea Israeliților Români (Question of the Romanian Israelites; 1910) was the most popular. Although his edition is not a scholarly text and is accompanied by a polemical apologetic commentary, it was used by historians.

Marco Brociner was a Romanian- and German-language writer and journalist with a doctor of law degree from the University of Heidelberg. As a student, he published articles in the Jewish Romanian-language journal Vocea apărătorului in Bucharest. When he returned to Romania, he settled in Bucharest, where he founded and edited the German-language journal Bukarester Tageblatt (1882). As a creative writer, he published stories in Romanian and German on Jewish and Romanian peasant themes. Disappointed after the Jewish-born literary critic Constantin Dobrogeanu-Gherea criticized the Romanian language used in his story “Sanda” (1882), he began writing exclusively in German.

Marco Brociner was banished from Romania along with 10 other Romanian Jewish intellectuals in 1885, and he moved to Vienna where he continued to write on Romanian themes. His successful novel Ionel Fortunat (1889) became the basis for his play Die Hochzeit von Valeni (Marriage at Valeni), performed 150 times at the Deutsches Volkstheater of Vienna; before World War I, a film with the same title was made, marking the first representation of Romanian peasants on the screen. The libretto to the opera The Rich Marriage, by Karel Weis, was also based on this play. Another novel by Marco Brociner was Das Volk steht auf (The People Arise; 1907). He died in the Vienna ghetto.

Mauriciu Brociner obtained a degree in commercial studies in Vienna, after which he returned to Romania and was recruited as a volunteer in that country’s army; he became a sergeant in 1876. With the outbreak of the Russian–Romanian war against Turkey (Romania’s War of Independence), Brociner became a second lieutenant in 1877. He was the first Jew to be an active officer in the Romanian army, and participated in military operations in the Balkans. In battle at Plevna, Bulgaria, Brociner was distinguished as a good fighter, and after the fall of the battalion commander, he led the troops, even though he was wounded. After the war, he rose to the rank of colonel, but could not be a general because he refused to convert to Christianity. Still highly decorated, after 1900 Brociner held some positions in the Romanian War Ministry and served as private secretary to Romanian Queen Elisabeth (Carmen Silva) as well as administrator of the Royal Court (from 1908). He died in Bucharest.

Andre Brociner, the youngest of the brothers, was a communal activist in Galați. He served as president of local Jewish cultural associations and worked as a journalist and translator from German to Romanian. He wrote on Jewish themes and published a volume of poems in German, Fruehlingsbluethen (Spring Flowers; 1871).

Suggested Reading

Jacob Geller, Tsemiḥatah u-sheki‘atah shel kehilah: Ha-Yehudim ha-ashkenazim veha-sefaradim be-Romanyah, 1919–1941 (Tel Aviv, 1985), pp. 28–41; Harry Kuller, “J. B. Brociner,” Buletinul Centrului, Muzeului şi Arhivei Istorice a Evreilor din România 2 (1998): 136–143; Israel Marcus (Marius Mircu), Ce s-a întâmplat cu evreii în România, vol. 1 (Bat Yam, Isr., 1996), pp. 25–36; Alexandru Mirodan, “Brociner, Marco,” Dicționar neconvențional al scriitorilor evrei de limbă română, vol. 1, p. 239 (Tel Aviv, 1986); A. B. Yoffe, Be-Sadot zarim: Sofrim yehudim be-Romanyah, 1880–1940 (Tel Aviv, 1996), p. 423.