Berlin’s Neue Synagoge (New Synagogue) was built between 1859 and 1866. It was the largest synagogue in Europe, with a capacity of 3,200 worshippers. It’s a beautiful building that was very unique for its time. It has a Moorish appearance, its architect having been inspired by the Alhambra in Granada, and has spectacular gilded domes that can be seen for some distance.
The New Synagogue has an important history. Jews in pre-WWII Germany were mostly well-integrated into Germany society. That ended abruptly with the rise of Nazis. The New Synagogue was damaged on Kristallnacht (November 9, 1938), when Nazis burned synagogues and destroyed the homes and businesses of Jews across Germany. The New Synagogue was damaged by fire on Kristallnacht but was not destroyed thanks to the protective efforts of the local police chief. The synagogue was heavily damaged in 1943 by Allied bombs, after which it was torched by Berliners. By the end of the war, almost no Jews were left in the city.
In the mid-1980s, East Germany began restoring this landmark but the effort was partial and the building was not completely restored until after German reunification.
Today the building is in lovely condition and one of Berlin’s most important Jewish landmarks. It mostly functions as a museum and houses exhibits of the history of the building and Jewish life in pre-Nazi Berlin. A small Jewish congregation celebrates Sabbath with services in a new addition, but the older part of the building is no longer a center of worship.