First Synagogue in former East Germany | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 13.11.2001
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First Synagogue in former East Germany

More than half a century after the destruction of Dresden's synagogue, the city celebrates the inauguration of its new synagogue.


Dresden's new synagogue

For months now, users all over the world have been watching the building progress of Dresden's new synagogue. But on the big day - November 9.- the webcam showed a rather sad scene, of a stout, square modern building framed by busy traffic and drizzly

This year, November 9 was a day to celebrate for Saxony's Jewish population. 63 years to this day, the Dresden synagogue was badly damaged in the "Reichskristallnacht"-purge. In 1938 It had to be pulled down as a consequence.

The new building will mark the beginning of a new era for Dresden's Jewish community and it is the first synagogue to be built in the
former GDR.

A 160 year history

The Dresden Synagogue was built in 1938 by architect Gottfried Semper. Two years later it was opened. The new building does not resemble the original: Two new square blocks hold two community centres and have
enough accommodation space for 300 people.

The new synagogue also boasts a children's library and the community's archive.

Dresden's Jewish community can look back on more than 160 years of history. In fact, the community has its roots back in the 13th
century. However, all Jews were expelled from Saxony between the 15th
and the 17th century.

The Jewish community began to develop again in the 19th century. The passing of a law granting Jews equal status in Saxony marked a milestone in the recognition and acceptance of the once discriminated
Jewish community.

From then on, the Jewish community grew steadily. By 1933, the community had reached 6,000 members in number.

Under the Nazi regime however, thousand's of Jews had to leave Dresden. Many emigrated to foreign countries. Only 70 Jewish citizens
survived. With the help of those who had managed to survive the concentration camps, the foundations of a new post-war Jewish
community were laid. In 1950 the community by then some 200 members - was given a small, provisional synagogue.

By 1989 however, the number had fallen again to 60 due to the population development and the increasing number of old people.

It was in the 90s, that survivors of the Nazi regime and the Holocaust made a first move to rebuild the Jewish community in Dresden. The city's administration received an increasing number of letters from
former citizens hoping to improve contacts to their original home.

Since the fall of the Wall, the size of the community has been growing steadily. To a large extent this is due to the increasing immigration of Jewish people from the former Soviet Union.

The opening of Dresden's new synagogue marks the beginning of a new era for the city's Jewish population on a historical date in
German history.

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