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Germany synagogue attack: Who were the victims?

Friedel Taube
October 18, 2019

The recent attack on a synagogue in Halle made headlines around the world and fueled concern of growing anti-Semitism and the threat of right-wing extremism in Germany. Who were the victims of this heinous act?

People march in an memorial for victims of the Halle synagogue attack, holding up a banner and an Israeli flag
Image: picture alliance/dpa/H. Schmidt

It is October 9, shortly after noon, when pedestrian Jana L. walks through the Paulus neighborhood in the northern section of Halle. She has just left the Wasserturm tram stop and is headed to her home nearby. As she passes by the local synagogue she hears a loud bang from an explosive device. An attacker had intended to blow open the door to the synagogue with the device and carry out a massacre.

The 40-year-old woman mistakenly assumes that he is a young rowdy man throwing firecrackers around — a deadly misreading of the situation. "Do you have to do that while I'm walking past?" she yells. As she walks by, the assailant shoots her several times in the back.

Read more: German synagogue attacker's online extremist circles revealed

Jana L. — a music lover

There are no indications that Jana L. had any previous contact with the man now charged with the crime, Stephan B. The attacker shot her arbitrarily. People who knew Jana all describe her as happy. She was a big music fan — and most of all she loved to listen to German pop music. Just a few days prior to her death she posted a photo from a Stefan Mross concert on her social media page. Mross himself expressed his bewilderment on Facebook: "We are deeply saddened. The attack robbed us of our biggest fan in Halle … A zest for life, a music lover and our biggest pop fan. That was Jana's life."

People in Halle stand around a memorial for the victims of the synagogue attack during a demo against right-wing extremism
Earlier this month, people in Halle held a memorial for the victims and demonstrated against right-wing extremismImage: picture-alliance/dpa/H. Schmidt

Jana had collected autographs from Ella Endlich and Andrea Berg, even taking selfies with the stars. "I met Jana at many of my concerts and autograph sessions," Andrea Berg told German newspaper Bild. "What happened in Halle has left me shocked and hopelessly saddened."

Read more: Anti-Semitism on the rise in the EU

Kevin S. — passionate football fan

The life of 20-year-old Kevin S. was also filled with passion: He was a dedicated fan of the local football club Hallescher FC, popularly known as HFC. Kevin was the second person that Stephan B. shot that day. A painter from nearby Merseburg, Kevin was having lunch at the kebab shop Kiez Döner when he was killed. He had been working at a nearby construction site before the fatal shooting. The killing, like that of Jana, was purely arbitrary.

Members of the fan group Liberta Crew Chemie Halle expressed sadness over Kevin's death on their Facebook page, posting a memorial video and encouraging people attending a ceremony honoring his life in Merseburg to wear team jerseys: "Kevin was part of the HFC family and often traveled with us on the bus to away games. We wish his family strength at this difficult time," read a statement. The club itself also reacted to the shocking news, wearing black armbands at a match shortly after the attack.

A makeshift memorial was set up outside the restaurant where Kevin S. was shot in the Halle synagogue attack
A makeshift memorial was set up outside the restaurant where Kevin S. was shot — DW is not publishing photos of the victims in order to protect their identitiesImage: picture alliance/dpa/H. Schmidt

Friends quickly set up an account at the local bank in Halle where donations can be made to both victims' families. Moreover, signatures are being collected on the online platform openPetition in hopes of installing memorial plaques at the places where the two were murdered.

Read more: German groups combating far-right extremism face uncertain future

#hallezusammen: Halle together

Jens and Dagmar Z., a married couple from nearby Landsberg-Wiedersdorf, were also among the victims of the right-wing terror attack. They survived their encounter with Stephan B. with life-threatening injuries. After fleeing the scene, Stephan B. arrived in the tiny town east of Halle and knocked on the door of Jens'. parent's house. Jens and Dagmar Z. were the only people he found there. The perpetrator demanded keys to a car in the driveway. When Jens refused to hand them over, he was shot in the neck. When Dagmar ran to help her injured husband she was shot in the thigh. Both were seriously injured and were rushed to the hospital to undergo surgery. Jens' father has since told Bild that the two are now doing much better.   

A memorial ceremony will be held on Saturday, October 19. Among the events planned under the motto #hallezusammen (Halle together) is a concert by German pop singer Max Giesinger. Organizers say they want to send a "signal for open and friendly coexistence as well as a message against anti-Semitism."

Editor's note: Deutsche Welle follows the German press code, which stresses the importance of protecting the privacy of suspected criminals or victims and urges us to refrain from revealing full names in such cases.

To the point: Halle terror attack: How deadly is Germany's far right?