New Munich Synagogue Symbolizes Hope

The Associated Press
Thursday, November 9, 2006; 10:00 PM

MUNICH, Germany -- Jews were welcomed back into the heart of Munich on Thursday with a procession of Torah scrolls and the dedication of a new downtown synagogue _ replacing one Adolf Hitler personally ordered destroyed as an "eyesore" in the center of his power base.

Jewish leaders said the ceremony _ on the 68th anniversary of Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass _ was a sign they were back to stay.

"Today we can show the entire world that Hitler did not succeed in annihilating us," said Charlotte Knobloch, Germany's top Jewish leader who was a young girl in Munich the night the Nazis attacked synagogues and Jewish businesses nationwide.

She fought back tears as Munich's mayor handed her the large, gleaming key to the stone-and-glass synagogue in the Jackobsplatz square, only blocks from where Joseph Goebbels ordered the destruction of Kristallnacht.

The synagogue, part of a complex that will house a Jewish community center, cafe, schools and a museum to Jewish history, is a milestone for this burgeoning Jewish community of 9,200 members.

Not only does it give Munich's Jews a new synagogue, it returns them to the city's center for the first time since World War II. Until now, worshippers have crammed into a small temple in a far-flung neighborhood.

"This synagogue is not just a trial, it's a hope. It's a place of hope, that there will not be a repetition," said Rabbi Israel Singer, of the World Jewish Congress, one of 1,200 guests at the ceremony that followed the procession of silver-topped Torah scrolls through the city's winding cobblestone streets.

Yet looming over the festivities were shadows of the past. A study released Wednesday found that right-wing extremism persists in Germany, with 26.7 percent of respondents harboring anti-foreigner views _ and 8.4 percent of the 4,900 polled by the University of Leipzig holding anti-Semitic views.

"It is the duty of each and every one of us to get involved and act to prevent people being abused, injured or even murdered due to their religion, origin or appearance," German President Horst Koehler said.

Some 1,500 police officers sealed off the parade route and secured the square during the ceremony, and guests were required to pass through metal detectors before entering the square.

In 2003, authorities thwarted a plot by a group of neo-Nazis to bomb the ceremony to lay the cornerstone for the new synagogue.

Security concerns also prompted Jewish leaders to decide to house a memorial to the more than 4,000 Munich Jews killed in the Holocaust in an underground tunnel between the synagogue, which seats 550, and the community center.

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