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 Monday, 27 January, 2003, 14:50 GMT
Germany signs historic Jewish treaty
Jewish prisoners at concentration camp
The Holocaust all but wiped out Germany's Jews
The German Government has signed a landmark agreement, described as a legal partnership, with the country's Jewish community.

No-one, but no-one, would have believed in 1945 that there could ever be Jewish life in Germany again

Paul Spiegel
Central Council of Jews
The signing, by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Central Council of Jews leader Paul Spiegel, came as Germany marked the 58th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz.

The agreement gives the council the same legal status as the Catholic and Lutheran Churches and triples its annual government funding.

Germany's Jewish community was all but wiped out during the Nazi Holocaust but in recent years has grown to 100,000 members, mainly because of immigration from the former Soviet Union.

Renaissance

Mr Schroeder hailed the accord as "a significant sign of the Jewish community's trust in our society, and also a sign of trust in our democracy".

Paul Spiegel and Chancellor Schroeder
The deal gives the Jewish council extra funding
Mr Spiegel said that the resurgence of the community was remarkable.

"No-one, but no-one, would have believed in 1945 that there could ever be Jewish life in Germany again," he said at a news conference.

"Today, we are even tempted to speak of a coming renaissance of jewry in Germany. No-one could have imagined that a few years ago."

Funding increase

Mr Spiegel said he expected another 20-30,000 Jews to immigrate in the next few years.

Berlin promised in 1991 to receive Jews from the former Soviet Union because of its responsibility for the Holocaust.

According to the treaty, the German Government agrees to increase the council's funding to 3m euros ($3.2m) to reflect the increase in numbers.

The government will also contribute to the upkeep of cemeteries and synagogues, and the funding of Jewish research centres.

And it will help to train rabbis, which currently number only about 30.

The pre-war Jewish community in Germany had more than 500,000 members, but by 1950 only 15,000 were left.

This grew to 30,000 by the early 1990s, but was further boosted by tens of thousands of immigrants.

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