Aachen Synagogue Opening Closes an Historic Circle

For Dorothea and Simon Schlachet, the inauguration last week of a new synagogue in the German city of Aachen marked the closing of a historic circle.

Fifty-seven years ago, both had witnessed the burning of the old synagogue during Krishallnacht. Both had been feed from a concentration camp 50 years ago. And Dorothea had been one of the hundreds of Jews rescued from Auschwitz by Oskar Schindler.

Now, joy replaced the Schlachets’ painful memories.

The new house of prayer opened during festivities that were attended by 18 Holocaust survivors who are former inhabitants of Aachen. Also on hand were Ignatz Bubis, head of the German Jewish community, and Johannes Rau, premier of the regional state of Nordrhine-Westphalia.

“The Nazis did not have the last word in this site and this community,” said Simon Schlachet, chairman of the Aachen Jewish community.

Rau said, “The renewed building of a synagogue in the land of the Nazi criminals is a wonderful and joyful event.”

He thanked the Jews for building their home in Germany “despite Lubeck and precisely because Lubeck.” The synagogue of Lubeck in northern Germany was the site of a firebombing earlier this month, the second arson at the building in 14 months.

Bubis demanded that more synagogues be built on German soil as sign of Jewish presence.

The new synagogue was built as a joint ventured by the regional state and the city of Aachen at a cost of $8.3 million. The Christian community of Aachen presented the synagogue with a special gift: new Torah scrolls.

Some 800 Jews now live in Aachen, half of them emigrants from Eastern Europe.

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