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German City Building New Synagogue

November 9, 1998

DRESDEN, Germany (AP) _ Sixty years after Dresden’s main synagogue burned to the ground in the Nazi pogrom Kristallnacht, officials on Monday laid the cornerstone for a new synagogue on the same site.

The new building will be smaller to reflect the city’s diminished Jewish community, but the leader of Dresden’s Jews, Roman Koenig, expressed hope that it would stand as a sign of tolerance and vigilance.

It is the first new synagogue to be built in former East Germany since reunification in 1990.

The Semper synagogue, built in 1838 by the same architect who designed Dresden’s famed opera house, was one of more than 1,300 destroyed by Nazi storm troopers on Kristallnacht, known as the Night of Broken Glass, on Nov. 9, 1938.

But Dresden firefighter Alfred Neugebauer, responding to the blaze, saved a Star of David from the building and hid it in his attic until the war ended. He then returned it to the Jewish community.

The star will be placed on top of the new synagogue, which will begin holding services in a year.

The city of Dresden and Saxony state have contributed $6 million to build the synagogue. Another $2.4 million has been donated, including $110,000 collected in Columbus, Ohio, Dresden’s American sister city.

Frank Wobst _ a Dresden native and now head of Columbus-based Huntington Bankshares Inc. _ helped forge the sister-city relationship, and returned Monday to present the check and underline the American city’s commitment to Dresden.

``We wanted to be part of rebuilding the synagogue so Dresden’s Jewish community would have a synagogue and be more complete,″ said Wobst, who was only 4 when the old synagogue was destroyed.

He left his native city for West Germany in 1952, as the communists secured their hold on East Germany, and moved to the United States several years later.

Wobst also brought with him a $30,000 check to help rebuild the city’s central church, the Frauenkirche, which was destroyed in the war by Allied bombs.

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