Built in 1896, Koenigsberg’s New Synagogue was one of Europe’s largest and most impressive Jewish houses of worship. Much to the local Jewish population’s dismay, it was destroyed in the Kristallnacht pogroms that began on November 9, 1938. “We saw the hulking ruin of our historic old synagogue each day, now a silent, accusatory memorial, a memorial to suffering,” Michael Wieck wrote in a 2003 biography about his childhood in Koenigsberg.
Now, 80 years later, another Jewish community is about to open a replica of the building in the same place to serve Jewish worshippers. The restoration is intended to assert Jewish presence and revival in a place long associated with destruction.
The city in which the New Synagogue was located is now called Kaliningrad; the Russians took it from Germany in 1945.
“It’s the only synagogue in Russia that was destroyed during Kristallnacht,” Rabbi Alexander Boroda, president of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia. “It’s very symbolic that we’re rebuilding it almost exactly as it was, not only restoring its glory but expanding on it.”
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