German rabbi, 94, calls Berlin synagogue rebirth a 'miracle'
BERLIN (AFP) - German rabbi Leo Trepp has seen his share of the horrors and glories of modern history in his 94 years. But he reserves the word "miracle" for the reopening of Germany's biggest synagogue Friday.
The stunning red-brick house of worship on Rykestrasse in the heart of trendy east Berlin district Prenzlauer Berg is an architectural landmark and a defiant symbol of Hitler's failed attempt to wipe out European Jewry.
Trepp, who preached at the synagogue in the 1930s after the Nazis rose to power, will be among the guests at a glittering inauguration ceremony in the restored building -- a celebration of the rebirth of Jewish life in the city where the Holocaust was planned.
"It is a miracle that there are Jews in Germany again," Trepp told AFP.
"And the synagogue on Rykestrasse, which survived two different regimes, is the symbol of that miracle," he said, referring to the Nazi and communist eras.
Built in 1904, the neo-Classical building was lovingly adorned with green Art Nouveau ceramic tiles, friezes taking inspiration from the leaves of nearby chestnut trees and ornate wrought-iron gates topped by two prominent Stars of David.
Now surrounded by smart cafes and boutiques, a century ago the synagogue served a devout, working-class Jewish community with eastern European roots, Trepp said.
Architects Ruth Golan and Kay Zareh have used three surviving black-and-white photographs of the original building to recreate its remarkable elegance.
But they have introduced pine benches and chosen lighter paint to reflect the light that pours in through its stained glass windows for a 4.5-million-euro (6.1-million-dollar) renovation that lasted more than three years.
"It is now the most beautiful synagogue in Germany," the cultural affairs director of the Berlin's Jewish community, Peter Sauerbaum, said.
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