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Major German synagogue reopened

31 August 07 12:54 GMT

Germany's biggest synagogue has reopened in a special ceremony attended by political leaders and Holocaust survivors from around the world.

The building in the east of Berlin, topped with a stunning blue dome, has been described as one of the jewels of Germany's Jewish community.

The place of worship was built more than one hundred years ago.

But having survived both Nazi rule and communism, it had gradually fallen into a state of disrepair.

The restoration was funded by Berlin city authorities with the help of lottery money.

Fast-growing community

The synagogue, on Rykestrasse, was set ablaze on Kristallnacht - the night in 1938 when many Jewish temples, homes and businesses were torched - but it narrowly avoided destruction.

It also survived atheist East Germany, although under communism the synagogue slowly fell into decay and disrepair.

Now the country's biggest synagogue has received a multi-million-dollar makeover and is open for worship again.

Originally built in 1904, the neo-classical construction was closed for more than three years for the 4.5 million euro ($6 million, £3 million) refit.

Architects Ruth Golan and Kay Zareh have used three surviving black and white photographs of the original building to recreate its original appearance.

Among the guests at the inauguration ceremony was a 94-year-old rabbi named Leo Trepp, who preached at the synagogue in the 1930s.

He told the AFP news agency that the reopening was a "miracle".

The BBC's Steve Rosenberg, in Berlin, says that there has been a revival of Jewish life and culture in Germany in recent years, helped by an influx of mainly Russian-speaking Jews from former Soviet states.

This has helped modern Germany boast one of the fastest-growing Jewish communities in the world.

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