Berlin's Ryke Street synagogue, Germany's largest, completed its remarkable return to its former glory Friday when it was reopened after extensive reconstruction.
Nearly 70 years after it was badly damaged in the 1938 Nazi pogrom known as Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass), Germany's largest synagogue reopened in Berlin Friday after being restored to its original glory over the past year at a cost of 5 million euros ($7 million).
Built in 1904 in the neo-Romanesque style, the Ryke Street synagogue was attacked during the infamous night of violence during which Adolf Hitler’s followers torched Jewish homes, businesses and places of worship. While the synagogue was desecrated, it was not burned down, apparently because the Nazis feared causing damage to the surrounding buildings.
Now, after a colorful history which also saw it fall under communist rule, the synagogue has been reborn as symbol of the rebirth of the Jewish community in the German capital.
Ninety-four year-old rabbi Leo Trepp, who had preached at the synagogue in the 1930s and was one of the rabbis who was seized and deported to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp along with many of congregation members, called the reopening a "miracle".
Synagogue's rebirth "a miracle"
Trepp was among the guests at the inauguration ceremony in the restored building with political leaders and Holocaust survivors from around the world. "It is a miracle that there are Jews in Germany again," Trepp told reporters. "And the synagogue on Rykestrasse, which survived two different regimes, is the symbol of that miracle," he said.
The synagogue's architects Ruth Golan and Kay Zareh used three surviving black-and-white photographs of the original building to recreate its remarkable elegance. "It is now the most beautiful synagogue in Germany," the cultural affairs director of the Berlin's Jewish community, Peter Sauerbaum, said.
German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble and the president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Charlotte Knobloch, also took part in the opening ceremony in central Berlin.
The opening coincides with the start of the capital's annual Jewish Cultural Days, which includes a series of concerts at the newly restored synagogue.
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On Sunday, a new cultural center is being formally opened in the western part of Berlin for the Chabad-Lubavitch branch of orthodox Jews. A feature of the center, which cost 5 million euros, is a 30-metre replica of part of the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, built with stone from around the city.
Colorful history under two regimes
The reopening of the synagogue marks a remarkable return to grandeur since its last prayer service at the Berlin synagogue took place in April 1940.
After World War II, it was first used to house Jewish survivors of the Holocaust in Eastern Europe before reopening in 1953 and becoming home to the East Berlin's Jewish community after the capital was divided.
Over the years after 1967, the synagogue was gradually renovated, and the most recent works have seen the restoration of the colored-glass interior.
With German unification in 1990, the synagogue served an influx of Jewish immigrants from Russia which continues to make Germany's 120,000-strong Jewish community one of the fastest-growing in the world.
The synagogue can accommodate some 1,200 worshippers.
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