“History reminds us, the present demands us, that Germans must stand by their Jewish compatriots,” said German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, after a deadly synagogue shooting. “Those who so far have been silent must speak out.”
On 9th October 2019, a 27-year old gunman, Stephan Balliet, killed two people in Halle, Germany, after attempting to break into a Yom Kippur service. He broadcasted his 35-minute rampage on Twitch, a live-streaming platform mainly used by video-game players. The federal prosecutor’s office confirmed him to be a right-wing extremist who wanted to use the mass shooting for his anti-Semitic beliefs.
Max Privorotzki, a leader of the local Jewish community, caught the attack on his synagogue’s surveillance camera system. At the time, the perpetrator was armed and tried to shoot at the synagogue’s doors. Inside were 51 people, marking the holiest day in Judaism. Investigators believe that he intended to carry out a massacre, having found 9lbs of explosives in his vehicle.
Frustrated at the failed break-in attempt, Balliet shot at a female passer-by and a man in a Turkish kebab shop before opening fire with an assault rifle. He then fled the scene in a hijacked taxi after his homemade gun jammed. He was arrested after crashing in Werschen, 10 miles south of Halle. Balliet is now charged with two counts of murder and the attempted murder of nine others who were injured.
Josef Schuster, head of Germany’s Jewish community, said that the absence of police outside the synagogue on the holy day was “scandalous,” as community members had to wait for more than 10 minutes behind closed doors for rescue. Synagogues are often police-protected in Germany, especially with the current rise in anti-Semitic and far right-wing beliefs. Interior minister, Horst Seehofer called the attack “a disgrace for our whole country” and said that Jewish institutions need to be better protected. “Germany made a vow to the world: never again,” he said. “And we will fulfil this vow.”
A spokesperson for Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned the shooting and offered her solidarity “for all Jews on the holy day of Yom Kippur.” European Union President, Jean Claude Juncker, has also condemned the attack. Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, stated that the shooting was an attack of terror. Netanyahu tweeted, “I urge German authorities to continue to act resolutely against the phenomenon of anti-Semitism.”
Merkel vowed to combat antisemitism in Germany by investing more resources in education and prevention efforts. Wider repercussions include a greater review of security measures such as police protection for synagogues and physical barriers from attackers, as well as more pressure on digital companies to flag threats to responsible authorities.