Max Privorozki, head of the Jewish community in Halle, said that several times in the Land (State) Saxony-Anhalt the desire for police protection for synagogues had been expressed – “just like in big cities like Berlin, Munich Frankfurt”.
‘’In the wake of this latest vicious rise of Jew hatred in Germany, including attacks of terror, we say enough empty condemnations and message of solidarity. It is time for real, immediate and tangible action. The Jewish community, as citizens of Europe, must be protected and have the basic right to practice and live in freedom and peace.”
BERLIN—The lack of police protection at the synagogue in the eastern German city of Halle during Yom Kippur services has been criticized by the Jewish community in the country and by Jewish groups abroad who are calling for increased protection for European Jews.
A shooting occurred shortly after 1 p.m. when the assailant attempted but was unable to enter the synagogue of Halle. He then shot and killed a woman near the entrance to the adjacent Jewish cemetery.
The assailant then got back into his car and drove to a nearby kebab shop where he killed a second person. Police later said they had found an improvised explosive device near the synagogue.
Two more people were injured during the rampage in the city. The 27-uear-old suspect was apprehended by city police after he crashed his car. Police said the man had no previous arrests, but his targets suggest that he had anti-Semitic and xenophobic beliefs. German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said that anti-Semitism was certainly one of the shooter’s motives.
Max Privorozki, chairman of the Jewish community in Halle, which dates back to the 12th century, has accused police of slow reaction to the attack on the synagogue.
“They were too late on the ground,” said Privorozki in a video released by the Jewish Forum for Democracy and Anti-Semitism. It would have taken them at least 10 minutes to call and say “armed attack on the synagogue.”
Privorozki said that several times in the Land (State) Saxony-Anhalt the desire for police protection for synagogues had been expressed – “just like in big cities like Berlin, Munich Frankfurt”.
He reported that there were 51 people in the synagogue in addition to a group of young Americans, who were celebrating the highest Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonment).
Privorozki said, “We heard shots first.” A security guard and myself saw over a camera monitor how someone dressed like a special forces soldier had shot someone. After that he shot on the door.
The people barricaded themselves in the synagogue. Both front doors had been barricaded, with furniture, in case the offender had broken the outer door. ‘’Thanks God he did not succeed,’’ said Privorozki, quoted by the German news agency dpa.
Josef Schuster, President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said that ‘’the fact that the synagogue in Halle was not protected by the police on a holiday like Yom Kippur is scandalous.’’
He added: ”Only happy circumstances prevented a massacre in the synagogue,’’ Schuster continued.
In view of the fact that last Friday in Berlin a man with a knife was stopped in front of a synagogue, Schuster also appealed to stricter action by the judiciary after attacks and attempted attacks. Lately, there has been a “shift in the red line,” and words have been followed by action, Schuster said.
Ezra Waxmann, who was attending Yom Kippur services in the Halle synagogue with a group of around 12 other Americans, said: “Today I feel a lot more somber because people were killed. Yesterday was more about just being thankful for the miracle that [the gunman]couldn’t get through the door, and that a much bigger tragedy didn’t happen.’’
World Jewish Congress leader Ronald Lauder called on Germany to provide Jewish institutions the protection they need and deliver with “action rather than words.”
In a letter to German Interior Minister, Horst Seehofer, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre Director for International Relations, Shimon Samuels, noted that on 10 November, 1938 – the ‘Kristallnacht State Pogrom against Jews- saw the destruction of the Halle synagogue, 200 men sent to Buchenwald and the obliteration of 800 years of Jewish Halle.”
“Interestingly,” continued the letter, “Yom Kippur 1938 fell on 5 October… It is known that both extreme right and Islamist terrorists often act to mark anniversaries.”
“If so, this may be a precursor to ‘Kristallnacht’,” suggested Samuels.
“Another disturbing point is the televised clip of the murderer in Halle. His returning back and forth to his car to take out additional weaponry seems to show a ‘police vacuum’.”
‘’The delayed reaction by the authorities in an obvious case of antisemitic terror, demands an official investigation,” said Samuels. “Next month’s ‘Kristallnacht’ commemoration will require a maximum national alert,” he concluded.
Israel Jewish Congress President Vladimir Sloutzker recalled that according to reports, incidents of antisemitic violence in Germany increased by 71,4 % in 2018.
‘’In the wake of this latest vicious rise of Jew hatred in Germany, including attacks of terror, we say enough empty condemnations and message of solidarity. It is time for real, immediate and tangible action. The Jewish community, as citizens of Europe, must be protected and have the basic right to practice and live in freedom and peace,’’ he added.
German leaders react
“We must oppose any form of anti-Semitism,” emphasized Chancellor Angela Merkel who took part in a solidarity event at the synagogue on Oranienburger Strasse in Berlin on Wednesday evening. Also Berlin Interior Senator Andreas Geisel attended the event.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier called for solidarity with the Jewish community. He said such an attack on a fully occupied synagogue seemed unimaginable in Germany.
“That on the Day of Atonement a synagogue was shot at hits us in the heart,” Foreign Minister Heiko Maas posted on Twitter. “We must all act against anti-Semitism in our country.”
Security was boosted at other German synagogues following news of the attack.