New synagogue in Munich to open on pogrom anniversary

dpa German Press Agency
Published: Wednesday November 8, 2006

Munich- When Munich's new principal synagogue is inaugurated Thursday, memories will be revived of a Nazi campaign of arson and assaults against Jews on the very same date in November 68 years ago. The torah rolls are to be transferred from the modest main synagogue that has served Munich since the Second World War and be placed in the new house of worship, the centre-piece of a new mid- city community centre that is not finished yet.

Germany's President Horst Koehler will head the guest list on a day of the year that German Jews claim as their own because of the evil events of November 9, 1938, when Nazi thugs went on a nationwide orgy of violence coordinated from Berlin.

More than 1,600 synagogues were ransacked or set on fire and Jewish-owned shops smashed. The very sound of the attacks led to the name "Kristallnacht" - the Night of Broken Glass. In the violence, Jews were beaten to death and thousands detained as the Nazis took a further step towards the Holocaust.

Munich's old main synagogue had already gone by that time: It was razed five months earlier on the orders of dictator Adolf Hitler.

Charlotte Knobloch, who is president of Germany's Council of Jews and recalls her own fear in 1938 as a 6-year-old girl, says, "We deliberately chose November 9 as inauguration day, because it will represent a nexus between the past, the present and the future."

She said the Nazi pogrom was launched with a hate speech by Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels in Munich's town hall.

"By opening our synagogue less than five minutes' walk away, we're showing that the Nazis failed: A Jewish community exists in this country, it's vital and it's growing," she explained.

The foundation stone was laid exactly three years ago, an event that was nearly marred by a bombing plot by neo-Nazis who glorify November 9. The plotters, who never built their bomb, were arrested. Their leader, Martin Wiese, is serving a 7-year jail term.

Knobloch, who is also head of the Munich Jewish community, said the complex going up on St Jakobs Square in the city's heart will cost 71.5 million euros (91 million dollars) when completed and is the biggest current Jewish building project in Europe.

It will also include a Jewish museum, a meeting centre, offices, school, kindergarten and kosher restaurant, combining facilities previously scattered in the city and serving 9,000 Munich Jews.

Non-Jewish Germans donated funds for the building and Bavaria's government contributed 12 million euros, while the municipality of Munich provided 14.5 million euros for the museum and is to pay its running costs. The museum opening is still several months away.

© 2006 dpa German Press Agency