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New Synagogue Opens

DW staff (tt)November 9, 2006

The newly built Munich synagogue officially opened on Nov. 9 on Jakobsplatz where a Jewish house of worship once stood, prior to being destroyed by the Nazis in 1938.

The square building of the new synagogue in Munich with a glass construction on the roof
The new synagogue will serve some 9,000 members of the Jewish community in MunichImage: picture-alliance/ dpa

A new Jewish Center containing a synagogue, museum and kindergarten is set to be opened in Munich on Nov. 9 in the presence of German leaders, including Germany's President Horst Köhler and Jewish community leader Charlotte Knobloch.

The synagogue will be opened on the 68th anniversary of the so-called "Night of Broken Glass" -- the day on which Nazi gangs smashed windows or set fire to Jewish synagogues, shops and homes and beat Jews to death in 1938.

The Munich synagogue "Ohel Jakob" was one of the 1,000 synagogues that were trashed, looted and burned during the "Night of Broken Glass."

Charlotte Knobloch
Charlotte Knobloch attended the Munich synagogue as a childImage: AP

The new synagogue carries the same name as its predecessor. It could not be rebuilt on its original site -- which has in the meantime been transformed into an underground parking lot -- but in its proximity.

"Naturally, I still have memories, because I was there, with my father and my family, as a child," Knobloch said of the original temple. "It was our synagogue and it was very impressive, especially for a child."

According to Knobloch, who also serves as president of the Jewish Council in Germany, the newly built Jewish Center in downtown Munich is the largest Jewish construction project in Europe. It cost 71,5 million euros ($91 million).

Jewish renaissance

The opening of a new synagogue in Munich is seen by many as a sign of Jewish revival in Germany.

A book with Hebrew letters
The Jewish community in Munich is undergoing a significant changeImage: AP

According to historian Michael Brenner, co-editor of "Jewish Munich -- from the Middle Ages to the Present," the Munich Jewish community -- which is with its 9,300 members the second largest in Germany -- is going through an important change.

"I am a historian and not a prophet," Brenner said. "I cannot say if the community will take advantage of this chance. But the chance is there and I believe that the creation of a visible center will allow the community to bid farewell to its backyard existence, so to speak, and arrive in the city center."

"There is a chance for the community to become a visible part of the city, which was not the case until now," Brenner said.

Since 1989, some 190,000 Jews from the former Soviet Union have come to Germany. With an influx of new immigrants, the Jewish community in Munich decided that in addition to a new synagogue, it needed a new cultural center as well. The move to the Jakobsplatz in the heart of Munich was a fruit of collaboration between Knobloch and Munich's mayor Christian Ude.

A homecoming

The buildings of the new synagogue and the Jewish community center
The center and synagogue will be prominent in the city centerImage: picture-alliance/ dpa

The Jewish Center is bound to become an important architectural and cultural landmark in downtown Munich. The five-storey community and cultural center will contain offices, a school and a kindergarten.

The large assembly hall, a kosher restaurant and the next-door Jewish museum will be open to general public. The underground passage connecting the two buildings bears the names of the 4,500 Munich Jews that were murdered by the Nazis.

Charlotte Knobloch, who lost relatives during the Holocaust, sees the rebuilding of the synagogue as a symbolic homecoming.

"After we wrapped everything up -- the finances, the premises and the competition -- I knew that we had arrived here in Munich, that our settling down in the heart of the city had been accepted," Knobloch said.

"And then I knew that we must now think of the future. And there can be no future unless you unpack your luggage."