The New Synagogue in Berlin connects the past with the present. The synagogue, opened in 1866, was built to serve the growing Jewish population in Berlin. It could seat up to 3,000 and its size and Moorish dome reflected the vibrancy of the local community. People used to come to the synagogue to hear public concerts.
This synagogue, once the symbol of Berlin’s tolerance, turned to the complete opposite, when it was set ablaze during Kristallnacht in 1938. In 1943 and 1944, it was hit by Allied bombs during the Battle of Berlin. In 1958, the Jewish Community of East Berlin demolished the ruined rear sections of the building, including the remains of the main prayer hall, leaving only the less destroyed front section intact.
It was not until the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989 that reconstruction of the temple began. In May 1995, the synagogue was finally reestablished using the former women’s wardrobe room as a space of worship. The building now also has a museum component, hosting the permanent exhibition “Open the the gates.” The exhibit explores the history of the building and its members through recovered architectural fragments and remnants of past interior furnishings.
A guided tour provides access to an open space behind the restored parts of the building, which gives a powerful impression of the size of the original synagogue. The land where the building used to stand is clearly marked so visitors can get a sense of the massive destruction that took place.
The Centrum Judaicum foundation, also located inside the synagogue, aims to address the history of Jews in and around Berlin. The Center views itself as a bridge between East and West European Jewry, by formulating positions on Jewish issues of our time.