1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

German synagogue attacker given 7 more years for escape bid

February 27, 2024

Already serving a life sentence for his attack on a German synagogue in 2019, the 32-year-old has been handed a further seven years after taking two prison staff hostage and threatening them with a self-made firearm.

The Halle synagogue attacker sits in court, next to a lawyer, with three armed police officers standing at his shoulders. The case took place in a high-security court given the suspect's history. January 25, 2024.
The 32-year-old used everyday materials to construct a rudimentary firearm and threatened to use it on two prison guards unless he was allowed to leave the facilityImage: Klaus-Dietmar Gabbert/dpa/picture alliance

Stephan B., the man who was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of two people during an attempted attack on a German synagogue on Yom Kippur in 2019, has been handed a further seven years after using a self-made firearm to take two prison officials hostage in a bid to escape from prison.

When he was thwarted in his attempt to break into a synagogue in the eastern German city of Halle on October 9, 2019, where he intended to massacre those inside, he shot and killed two passers-by instead.

He was sentenced to life behind bars in 2020 and was being held in a penal facility near Magdeburg when he used a self-made firearm to take two prison attendants hostage on December 12, 2022.

According to presiding judge Simone Henze-von Staden, the 32-year-old demanded that one of the hostages open doors and gates to allow him to escape, threatening a "countdown" with his firearm – which she said he had "constructed from various everyday objects" – and even firing a "warning shot."

He gave up on the attempt once it became clear he had no prospect of leaving the facility, even with assistance from his pair of hostages.

Germany's Jews and antisemitism: A complex reality

Compensation for prison guards' psychological harm

Judge Henze-von Staden handed him an additional seven years and ordered him to pay compensation totaling €25,262 ($27,382) to the two prison employees who, while physically unhurt, had suffered psychological harm. She said the two men were not in any way compliant in the hostage-taking.

In passing down the sentence, the judge spoke of the defendant's "substantial criminal energy" and referred to an assessment that B. was "a seriously psychologically disturbed person," but one who was nevertheless deemed fit to face criminal trial.

After he had reacted with smiles during the trial, she said she considered him to be lacking in empathy and said the only aspect of the trial which had interested him were different camera angles of the prison. She said he had made it clear that he had not given up his aim of escaping.

During his time in jail, B. is said to be generally silent and still before breaking out in occasional rage. There is said to be effectively zero communication between prisoner and prison staff, psychiatrists, social workers or doctors. Officials have described him as untreatable and not amenable to treatment.

mf/msh (dpa, AP)