2 killed in at­tack tar­get­ing Ger­man syn­a­gogue

Heav­ily armed man livestream­ed ram­page

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - Front Page - Staff writer Anya Sostek con­trib­uted.

HALLE, Ger­many — An ap­par­ent right-wing ex­trem­ist at­tacked a syn­a­gogue with guns and ex­plo­sive de­vices Wed­nes­day in the east­ern Ger­man city of Halle on Yom Kip­pur, Ju­daism’s holi­est day.

Af­ter the heav­ily armed man was thwarted in his at­tempt to get in­side the build­ing, he killed two peo­ple and in­jured two oth­ers out­side, with footage of the at­tack broad­cast on an in­ter­net livestream­ing plat­form.

The ram­page comes amid heated pub­lic de­bate about the safety of Jews in Ger­many fol­low­ing a string of anti-Semitic crimes in the coun­try.

The blood­shed in Ger­many bore re­sem­blance to the mas­sacre by a sus­pected white su­prem­a­cist who killed 51 peo­ple at two mosques in Christchur­ch, New Zealand, six months ago, in an at­tack that was shown live on Face­book.

For a short time, a video filmed by the Halle at­tacker was avail­able

on the livestream­ing plat­form Twitch. It has since been deleted.

On Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon, the at­tacker, wear­ing a steel hel­met and boots, placed home­made ex­plo­sive de­vices in front of the Halle syn­a­gogue and at­tempted to en­ter it, se­cu­rity sources told dpa. Sev­eral shots were also fired.

Halle Jewish com­mu­nity leader Max Priv­o­rotzki said there were 70 to 80 wor­ship­pers in­side the syn­a­gogue at the time and that its se­cu­rity per­son­nel pre­vented his ad­vance into the build­ing.

The gun­man — calling him­self “Anon” — shouted that Jews were “the root” of “prob­lems” such as fem­i­nism and “mass im­mi­gra­tion,” ac­cord­ing to a group that tracks on­line ex­trem­ism. It said the roughly 36minute video posted on­line fea­tured the as­sailant, who spoke a com­bi­na­tion of Eng­lish and Ger­man, deny­ing the Holo­caust be­fore he shot dead a wo­man in the street af­ter fail­ing to en­ter the syn­a­gogue. It was un­clear whether she was as­so­ci­ated with the syn­a­gogue or just pass­ing by.

Lo­cal me­dia re­ported that shortly af­ter the at­tacker failed to en­ter the syn­a­gogue, a grenade or im­pro­vised ex­plo­sive de­vice was thrown into an ad­ja­cent Jewish ceme­tery.

A sec­ond vic­tim — a man — was then killed at a nearby ke­bab shop.

Mean­while, at the Jewish Com­mu­nity Cen­ter in Squir­rel Hill, Rabbi Ron Sy­mons be­gan a panel dis­cus­sion on for­give­ness fea­tur­ing sur­vivors of two mass shoot­ings by in­form­ing the hun­dreds in at­ten­dance about the syn­a­gogue shoot­ing in Ger­many. Gasps spread through the crowd, many of whom were ab­stain­ing from tech­nol­ogy on the high holy day and hadn’t heard.

“Here we go again,” Rabbi Sy­mons said af­ter the panel. “We need more com­mu­ni­ties to do what [Tree of Life sur­vivor Dan Leger] said — to fo­cus on the kind­ness. We need to turn more to our elected of­fi­cials in order to build com­mu­ni­ties in part­ner­ship with non­prof­its and re­li­gious or­ga­ni­za­tions and the like in order to say that that’s not ac­cept­able, it can’t hap­pen again.

“Our goal is to help peo­ple fig­ure out, ‘How am I go­ing to re­spond to it next time?’ un­til there is no next time.”

The sus­pected shooter’s video showed peo­ple be­ing fired upon and a man ly­ing be­hind a refrigerat­or in the ke­bab shop be­ing shot sev­eral times. It ap­pears to have been filmed on a cam­era at­tached to a hel­met.

The at­tacker then fled the scene and ap­par­ently threat­ened a taxi driver and two other peo­ple, be­fore crash­ing a car and be­ing de­tained.

Po­lice have yet to re­lease in­for­ma­tion about the vic­tims. It was also still un­clear late Wed­nes­day ex­actly how the chaotic events un­folded.

Ger­man In­te­rior Min­is­ter Horst See­hofer de­scribed it as an anti-Semitic at­tack likely mo­ti­vated by rightwing ex­trem­ism. The sus­pect is in cus­tody, and po­lice be­lieve he acted alone. An­titer­ror­ism prose­cu­tors have taken over the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The sus­pect was iden­ti­fied only as Stephan B, in line with Ger­man pri­vacy laws.

Sources told dpa he is a 27year-old Ger­man man with a far-right back­ground.

In the wake of the at­tack, ques­tions were raised about whether po­lice could have done more to pro­tect the syn­a­gogue in Halle.

The pres­i­dent of Ger­many’s Cen­tral Coun­cil of Jews said no po­lice were present at the syn­a­gogue at time of the at­tack, even though of­fi­cers are fre­quently seen out­side Jewish houses of wor­ship in the coun­try.

“The fact that the syn­a­gogue in Halle did not have po­lice pro­tec­tion on a hol­i­day like Yom Kip­pur is scan­dalous,” Josef Schus­ter said. “The bru­tal­ity of the at­tack over­takes ev­ery­thing that has hap­pened over re­cent years and is a deep shock for all Jews in Ger­many.”

Mr. Priv­o­rotzki also ac­cused po­lice of be­ing “too late on the ground” and said the Jewish com­mu­nity in Halle has been ask­ing state au­thor­i­ties in Sax­ony-An­halt for greater pro­tec­tion.

A wit­ness at the ke­bab shop, where the sec­ond vic­tim was killed, said he hid in the re­stroom, texted his fam­ily that he loved them and only came out when asked to do so by po­lice.

Two peo­ple in­jured were be­ing treated at a hos­pi­tal, a spokesman said.

Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel joined an evening vigil at a Ber­lin syn­a­gogue to show “sol­i­dar­ity,” her spokesman said.

Se­bas­tian Willnow/dpa via AP

Po­lice of­fi­cers cross a wall in Halle, Ger­many, on Wed­nes­day af­ter a man armed with guns and ex­plo­sives at­tacked a syn­a­gogue on Yom Kip­pur, Ju­daism’s holi­est day. Two peo­ple were killed and two oth­ers in­jured.

Christoph Soeder/dpa via AP

Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel, cen­ter, at­tends a sol­i­dar­ity event at the Neue Sy­n­a­goge in Ber­lin on Wed­nes­day af­ter two peo­ple were killed in an at­tack tar­get­ing a Ger­man syn­a­gogue.

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