German president inaugurates new synagogue in Mainz

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German President Christian Wulff inaugurated on Friday a new synagogue in the western city of Mainz, on the very site where Nazis destroyed the previous one more than 70 years ago.

"Exactly 98 years after the opening of the last major synagogue in Mainz, the Jewish community once again will have an architectural and religious centre," Wulff said at the official ceremony.

"Anti-semitism, racism and xenophobia in all its forms represent today one of the great evils of our times," he added.

Cologne architect Manuel Herz designed the 10-million euro (12.8 million dollar) modern structure -- which seats some 400 places -- and inscribed five Hebrew letters forming the word "Kedushah", or holiness.

The previous synagogue was burnt during the Nazis' two-day KristallNacht pogrom in 1938.

The event comes as Wulff ponders whether to sack Berlin central banker Thilo Sarrazin for alleged racist and anti-Semitic comments.

Mainz was considered a centre for Jewish culture in Germany for centuries, and some 2,600 Jews lived there in 1933, when Adolf Hitler came to power. More than half this population perished in death camps, according to the Mainz municipality.

Germany counted more than 530,000 Jews in 1933. In 1939, at the start of World War II, some 200,000 had emigrated to escape persecution. Just thousands survived the war.

Today numbers are back to more than 100,000, mainly due to Jewish emigration from the former Soviet Union.

© 2010 AFP

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