As of this year, the state of Brandenburg in former East Germany has its first synagogue since 1938.
Along the main corridor of Cottbus, a college town of around 100,000 people, the formerly Protestant and religiously-abandoned Schlosskirche—or “castle church”—was dedicated in January as a synagogue by a community of 1000 or so Jews. (Of course, only about half of them pay their official temple dues, but what else is new?)
The changeover has been met mostly with joy and respect by the rest of the town, though the strong “neo-Nazi scene” near the Polish border remains a concern—in 2006, some thugs defaced the Cottbus Jewish community offices with swastikas, and rising anti-Semitism across Europe has Jews fleeing for Israel.
But German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants the fragile rebuilding of German Jewish life to continue and has vowed her support, saying a recent press conference that “we are glad and thankful that there is Jewish life in Germany again.”
Cottbus once had a glorious synagogue of its own, with “intricate stained glass windows,” built by the prosperous merchants and tradesmen of the Jewish community. Like so many historic Jewish structures, it was destroyed during Kristallnacht, and its members vanished into Hitler’s horrific chasm.
Out of respect for my ancestors, I never learned a lick of German (though Young Yenta Man did try to download the entire language when he was a boy.)
But I think “schloss synogoge” has a nice ring to it, don’t you?