New synagogue opens in Germany city of Krefeld

( dpa ) - A new synagogue opened in the west German city of Krefeld on Sunday, 70 years after the Nazis destroyed the old one.

Local politicians and leaders of Germany's Jewish community were among those present at the inauguration ceremony.

Among them were Charlotte Knobloch, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, and Juergen Ruettgers, prime minister of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, where Krefeld is located.

Knobloch said the synagogue "stands for that which we lost and for that which we want to rebuild."

Jews are back in the mainstream of German society and would never allow this right to be contested, she said.

The new synagogue can accommodate up to 300 worshippers. It is located in a converted commercial building that also houses a Jewish community centre, library and meeting rooms.

Some 12 million euros (17 million dollars) were pumped into the renovation work, which was carried out under the auspices of the non- profit Isidor Herzfelder Foundation.

There are around 1,100 Jews living in and around Krefeld, an industrial city some 500 kilometres south-west of Berlin.

The only item that recalls the old synagogue is a three-piece ornamental window designed by Dutch artist Jan Thorn-Prikker for the original building in 1928.

The window was irreparably damaged when the synagogue was burned down during the Nazi pogrom of 1938, but was reconstructed from the original drawings kept at a local museum.

The opening of the synagogue, the 20th in North Rhine-Westphalia, is another sign of the renaissance of Jewish culture in Germany.

In the nearby city of Essen the Old Synagogue is being given an extensive makeover so that it will be ready by 2010 when Essen becomes European capital of Culture.

More restoration work is taking place on another synagogue destroyed during the Nazi pogrom in Darmstadt, not far from the banking centre of Frankfurt.

Some 600,000 Jews lived in Germany before World War II, but the figure declined to around 12,000 after 1945.

Today, there are more than 110,000 Jews or people of Jewish origin, giving Germany one of the largest Jewish populations of any country in Europe.

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