Members of the Jewish community in the eastern German town of Dessau are living in fear since the extremist attack in Halle. They regularly receive threatening letters — but the community has little protection.
“If something like the attack in Halle had happened in our community, there would have been a lot of deaths,” says Alexander Wassermann, glancing at his office door. “We have no security.”
Wassermann has been the chairperson of the Jewish community in Dessau for almost 20 years. The east German town is only about 50 kilometers from Halle, where the far-right, antisemitic attack took place. The door to the synagogue in Halle was able to stand firm and hold back the gunman — presumably sparing the faithful from a massacre.
“Our main door has been in use since 1904,” Wassermann says. He points to the wooden windows next to him, which are also around 100 years old.
Standing on the steps to the entrance door of the hall, Wassermann says that it was graffitied with a swastika some time ago. Now the door has been repainted and the swastika is no longer visible. But the fear remains. “We can’t change the situation, we don’t have the power,” he says, shrugging his shoulders. “What can we do?”
He has been trying, for a long time, to get financial support for more protection. But the Jewish community in Dessau is small, with around 300 members, and it has no money for security. All of the community’s funds are being poured into the construction of a new synagogue — as the old one was destroyed by the Nazis in 1938. Six months ago, Wassermann wrote a letter to the Interior Ministry of Saxony-Anhalt. But at the time, the ministry refused the financial request for security.
This irritates Wassermann. “We need security measures, we have no other option. It’s about our members’ safety. The lives of our members come at a higher price than security measures. Who is to blame if something happens?”
Shortly after the attack in Halle, a police car sits parked in front of the building. Wassermann, however, is uncertain how long it will stay.