A new synagogue has opened in Regensburg, Bavaria, 80 years after the original was destroyed during the Nazi-led pogrom of November 1938. The city's Catholic bishop has asked its Jewish community for forgiveness.
Three rabbis lifted Torah rolls into their safekeeping shrine inside Regensburg's new synagogue Wednesday, built on the site where the previous house of worship was destroyed in 1938 during then-Nazi Germany's November pogrom.
The new synagogue had risen "from the ashes," said Josef Chaim Bloch, rabbi to Regensburg's 1,000-member Jewish community, at Wednesday's opening that also marked 500 years exactly since a 16th century expulsion of hundreds of Jewish residents.
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The previous synagogue, built in 1912, like its orthodox replacement for 160 worshippers — complete with an adjoining community center — stands close to the Catholic Dom cathedral in the historic Danube river city of Germany's southern state of Bavaria.
'Day of joy,' says culture minister
Funding for the €9 million ($10.2 million) restoration, designed by the Berlin architecture bureau Volker Staab, came from the federal government, the state of Bavaria, Regensburg city, its Jewish community and numerous outside sponsors.
Project architect Florian Nusser, himself from Regensburg, said the complex, covering a floor space of 320 square meters (3444 square feet) and built over three years, sought to "fit hopefully well" into the old city [Altstadt] landscape.
One of the founders of a city-wide support association, chairman Dieter Weber, said he and other Regensburg residents had felt obligated to support Jewish life and help fund the building of the new synagogue.
Regional Culture Minister Michael Piazolo, a Free Voters [Freie Wähler] party member within the recently elected Bavarian cabinet led by Premier Markus Söder and his conservative Christian Social Union (CSU), described the Regensburg opening as a "day of joy, not only for the Jewish community but for us all in Bavaria."
Forgiveness sought by Catholics
Regensburg Catholic Bishop Rudolf Voderholzer sought forgiveness from the city's Jewish community, which now includes numerous emigres from former Soviet states.
"It pains us that [Catholic] church representatives in 1519 did not position themselves protectively in front of [their] Jewish co-residents but instead in some cases even profited from their expulsion," said the bishop, adding that it was vital to stand together in confronting "anti-Semitic clichés."
Likewise in 1938, the overwhelming majority of Christians did not find the courage to show solidarity with their Jewish co-residents, said Voderholzer, referring to the Nazi-coordinated nationwide pogrom of November 1938 , sometimes given the misnomer "Kristallnacht," in which some 1,400 synagogues were destroyed nationwide and hundreds of Jews were murdered.
'Centerpiece' restored to Regensburg
Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said the new synagogue restored a "centerpiece" for Regensburg's Jewish community, coinciding with a feeling of starting afresh among its younger members.
Jewish life in Regensburg had a future, Schuster said, despite what he termed rampant anti-Semitism espoused by resurgent far-right populists across Germany.
Oldest Jewish community in Bavaria
Jewish life in Regensburg goes back more than 1,000 years, making it the oldest Jewish community in Bavaria. The earliest written record of the community's origins dates back to 981.
Holocaust survivor Ernst Grube told the Protestant news agency epd during Wednesday's festivities that he hoped that Regensburg's synagogue "will be always so full as it is today."
ipj/amp (epd, KNA)