by Emma Anderson and Louise Guillot
(October 10, 2019) German officials decry antisemitic shooting that killed two
German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer condemned what he called an “anti-Semitic attack” in which a gunman shot and killed two people near a synagogue.
Seehofer said in a statement that on Wednesday — Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year in Judaism — a heavily armed assailant had tried to infiltrate a synagogue where about 80 people were gathered in the eastern German city of Halle. Two people were killed and several others were injured.
“We must assume based on our current knowledge that it was at least an anti-Semitic attack,” Seehofer said, calling it a “dark day.” He added that federal prosecutors believe there’s sufficient evidence to suggest a possible right-wing extremist background, but noted that the investigation is ongoing.
“I am deeply disturbed by this act and condemn it to the highest degree,” Seehofer said. “It is a horrible attack on our peaceful coexistence. My thoughts are with the victims and their families and I wish those injured a quick and full recovery.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited a synagogue in Berlin Wednesday evening to show solidarity with the victims, and her spokesman tweeted that “we must firmly oppose any form of anti-Semitism.”
The European Jewish Congress expressed condemnation and concern after the shooting, but also said the situation could have been worse had it not been for synagogue security measures.
“We are relieved that an even greater tragedy was avoided because of the security around the synagogue which apparently took measures to ensure that the attacker was not able to enter into the premises,” said Moshe Kantor, president of the EJC, in a statement. “However, that Jews observing one of the holiest days of the year were targeted for death should send shock waves in Germany and beyond.”
National media outlets including Spiegel and public broadcaster ARD have reported that police arrested a 27-year-old German man as a suspect in the shooting. According to Spiegel, the suspect filmed the attack from a camera on his helmet — similar to the man charged in the Christchurch, New Zealand mosque attacks — yelling “Jews” and derogatory terms for people from immigrant backgrounds.
Local police initially reported there may have been multiple attackers, but now believe there was only one shooter, according to German media.
In reaction to the attack, police forces in several other German cities stepped up security measures around synagogues.
Parts of Halle, including the central train station, were on lockdown Wednesday afternoon. Following the shooting, the European Parliament observed a moment of silence.