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Germany marks three years since Halle synagogue attack

October 9, 2022

Germany has commemorated a 2019 attack in Halle in which a right-wing extremist killed two people. The anniversary comes as antisemitic crimes are on the rise in Germany.

 Wreaths placed in front of a plaque commemorating the victims of the 2019 attack
Wreaths placed in front of a plaque commemorating the victims of the 2019 attackImage: Hendrik Schmidt/dpa/picture alliance

Officials in the eastern German city of Halle on Sunday held events to mark the third anniversary of an attack on a synagogue in the city by a right-wing extremist and the ensuing murders of two people who were nearby.

The premier of Saxony-Anhalt, Reiner Haseloff of the Christian Democrats (CDU), laid a wreath and in a speech called on society to take a clear stance against antisemitism and racism.

"The veneer of civilization is very thin. Humanity can quickly turn to inhumanity and barbarism," he said, calling the bullet-damaged door of the synagogue "a powerful memorial."

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also commemorated the attack, writing on Twitter: "This anniversary reminds us never to look away. We remember the victims and reaffirm our determination to fight right-wing extremism in every form."

German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser tweeted: "Nothing can undo the crime, but we are learning our lessons. We want Jews to be able to live safely and without fear in Germany and we are protecting them."

Public transport in the city stopped for around a minute at 12:03 p.m., the time the attack started, and church bells rang throughout the city.

What happened in the 2019 attack?

Around midday on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, a heavily armed right-wing extremist, 27 years old at the time, tried to enter a synagogue in Halle with the intention of carrying out a massacre. Some 50 worshipers were assembled in the building.

When he was unable to force open the door, he shot a 40-year-old woman who was passing by and then a 20-year-old male guest at a nearby kebab shop. The man injured two other people before being detained by police.

The attacker, who admitted the crimes, was sentenced in December 2020 to life imprisonment with subsequent preventive detention.

 Max Privorozki, the president of the Jewish Community in Halle, stands before a memorial to victims
Max Privorozki, the president of the Jewish Community in Halle, took part in the commemorationImage: Hendrik Schmidt/dpa/picture alliance

Antisemitism rising in Germany

Germany's security services registered 3,028 antisemitic crimes in 2021. That is the highest official count since police statistics started tracking the figures in 2001.

In the state of Saxony-Anhalt, where Halle is situated, the number of antisemitic offenses is set to rise again in 2022 after 111 crimes were reported in 2021, according to the state's Interior Ministry.

The state government's antisemitism commissioner, Wolfgang Schneiss, told the newspaper Mitteldeutsche Zeitung that victims were experiencing such incidents as more open and aggressive than was previously the case.

Schneiss told the paper that protests against regulations to curb the spread of COVID-19 had acted as an "accelerant" for antisemitic narratives.

The topic of antisemitism is particularly sensitive in Germany because of its leading role in the Holocaust, during which millions of Jews were persecuted and murdered by the Nazi regime.

tj/sms (dpa, epd, KNA, AFP)

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