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Munich defies hateful past

A new synagogue, "a place of hope," replaces one destroyed by Nazis.

Published November 10, 2006


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 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.

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, worshipers have crammed into a small temple in a far-flung neighborhood.

The synagogue cost about $72-million. Funding came from the city of Munich, the state of Bavaria, Munich's Jewish community and private donations.

"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.

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 antiforeigner 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.

[Last modified November 10, 2006, 01:34:12]

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