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2019 Halle synagogue shooting

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The Halle synagogue shooting was a far-right attack that occurred on 9 October 2019 in Halle, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany, continuing in nearby Landsberg.[3][4] After unsuccessfully trying to enter the synagogue in Halle during the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur,[2] the attacker killed two people nearby and later injured two others.[2][5][6] Federal investigators called the attack a far-right and antisemitic crime; the federal Public Prosecutor General took over the investigation and declared it to be a "violation of Germany's internal security". A 27-year-old German citizen from Saxony-Anhalt, Stephan Balliet, is in custody.[7]

2019 Halle synagogue shooting
Part of Far-right politics in Germany (1945–present)
HalleSynagoge 01.JPG
Halle Jewish cemetery gate and synagogue on the left
2019 Halle synagogue shooting is located in Saxony-Anhalt
2019 Halle synagogue shooting
2019 Halle synagogue shooting (Saxony-Anhalt)
2019 Halle synagogue shooting is located in Germany
2019 Halle synagogue shooting
2019 Halle synagogue shooting (Germany)
LocationHalle & Landsberg, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany
Coordinates51°29′36″N 11°58′49″E / 51.493279°N 11.980320°E / 51.493279; 11.980320Coordinates: 51°29′36″N 11°58′49″E / 51.493279°N 11.980320°E / 51.493279; 11.980320
Date9 October 2019 (2019-10-09)
(The date that the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur occurred in 2019)
12:00 CEST
TargetJews and others
Attack type
Shooting
WeaponsImprovised slam-fire shotgun and submachine gun, improvised explosives
Deaths2
Injuries
3 (including the suspect)
MotiveAntisemitism,far-right extremism[1]
AccusedStephan Balliet[2]

AttackEdit

The attack started around noon[2] on the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur. The suspect live-streamed himself trying, but failing, to enter the synagogue of Halle in which there were 51 people.[8] The gunman shot at the door's lock repeatedly and set off an explosive but the door was not breached, in part because the synagogue's security system had been recently upgraded.[9] The upgrade included a security camera which allowed the congregants inside to view the gunman's attempts to get into the synagogue.[10][11] The synagogue and the Jewish graveyard are located in the Paulusviertel neighborhood, near the city center. The attacker tried to enter the yard, firing shots and tried to ignite home-made explosives. The yard of the synagogue is surrounded by a 2.5-metre (8 ft 2 in) stone wall. At 12.03 p.m. a 112-distress call reached Halle fire-emergency HQ; one minute later, police were informed.[12] At 2.40 p.m. federal police quick responders BFE+ arrived in the city of Halle.[13][14]

A woman was shot and killed outside the synagogue after reprimanding the attacker for making noise.[15] According to Spiegel Online, she said ""Do you have to do that when I'm walking by?".[16] A man who stopped his vehicle to check on the woman shot near the entrance to the adjacent Jewish cemetery was able to get away unharmed when the shooter's weapon failed to fire; after killing the woman, the attacker drove to a nearby kebab shop.[17] The attacker opened fire through the front window with a shotgun.[18] A customer in the shop was injured, and later killed when the attacker re-entered the shop.[19] Authorities said they were dealing with a "rampage situation", activated the Public Alert System Katwarn[20] and advised the local community to stay at home and also closed the city's train station.[2][21]

The suspect fled in a rented Volkswagen, leading police on an 80-kilometre (50 mi) chase from Halle. First he drove to Wiedersdorf near Landsberg, about 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) north-east of Halle.[22] At about 4.00 p.m., a helicopter of the federal police landed in Wiedersdorf. Several police force personnel carriers and two ambulances were already present.[23]

VictimsEdit

The first victim of the shooter, who was passing by on the street near the synagogue when she was shot dead, was a 40-year-old woman from Halle.[15] In the kebab shop the suspect shot dead a 20-year-old man from Merseburg.[24][25][26] In his flight the suspect shot at a couple in Landsberg, wounding a 40-year-old woman and a 41-year-old man.[27][28] The two were admitted to Halle's university hospital with gunshot wounds and successfully underwent surgery.[29]

BackgroundEdit

German authorities said that the threat of right wing attacks had increased with the number of extremists and fringe groups increasing by 50 percent in the two years prior to April 2019.[30]Citing interior ministry figures, it was reported that some 12,700 Germans are inclined towards violence, of an estimated 24,000 far-right extremists.[31] In 2018, anti-Semitic crime and hate crime targeting foreigners each increased by almost 20 percent in Germany.[32] The perpetrator of the Halle attack also linked his crime to the June 2019 killing of Walter Lübcke, who was backing Germany's refugee policy.[33][34][35]

All Jewish facilities in Germany are entitled to state security precautions.[citation needed] The police protection of Jewish facilities is a consequence of the Munich massacre in 1972.It is the responsibility of the Bundesländer and carried out by the state police forces. Nevertheless, the state police of Saxony-Anhalt was not present and carried out no extra security precautions at the Halle synagogue for Yom Kippur in 2019. Daniel Neumann, director of the state union of Jewish communities in Hesse, said that smaller Jewish congregations do not have the financial resources for advanced security gear, including security doors and CCTV.[36]

InvestigationEdit

In the first hours after the attack, security services worked on the assumption of multiple perpetrators.[37] Later in the afternoon, Saxony-Anhalt's state minister of the interior Holger Stahlknecht declared that there was only one shooter, who had been arrested, and that it was being investigated whether the man had been part of a social environment, or networks.[24] The 27-year-old German suspect, identified by prosecutors as Stephan B., was arrested in Zeitz, located about 50 kilometres (31 mi) south of Halle.[38]

The Federal Prosecutor (Generalbundesanwalt) took over the investigation since the attack is a potential violation of Germany's internal security.[39] The prosecutor indicated that it is investigating a "murder with special significance".[39] According to the prosecutor's spokesperson, for now there are no indications of a terrorist organisation.[37] Security sources said the arrested suspect is a German national who had no prior criminal history, and that the indications of a right-wing extremist background became stronger.[39]

On 10 October, police searched the house of the suspect in Benndorf near Eisleben, where he had lived with his mother.[40]

Balliet used the streaming service Twitch to broadcast his attacks. According to Twitch, that stream was not listed in the recommendations of the site or made public in another way. This means, that he had to specifically send the link to people to lead them to the stream.[41]

On 11 October 2019, National television ARD put out an urgent news alert: Stephan Balliet confessed to the crime and also confirmed a right-wing extremist, anti-Semitic motive. He testified this extensively during the several-hour legal appointment at the investigating judge of the Federal Court of Justice.[42]

Police operationEdit

Aftermath there where clearified some facts about the police operation during the incident. State police lost the assassin of Halle, Stephan Balliet, for an hour during his escape. After all, two regular police officers from Zeitz managed to arrest the perpetrator; contrary to previous reports, it was not special forces which arrested the perpetrator. This was reported by several members of the Landtag of Halle Saxony Committee on the Interior.[43]

Suspect and motivationEdit

The suspect, a male 27-year-old German, was named by the media as Stephan Balliet[44] who lived in an apartment in Benndorf near Eisleben.[45]

Federal investigators said that the suspect had "almost certainly a far-right motivation for the crime". Comparisons were drawn between the Christchurch mosque shootings, where the suspected shooter livestreamed his attacks on Facebook for 17 minutes.[46] In the evening, Federal Minister of the Interior Horst Seehofer said it was "at least" an antisemitic attack.[37]

The suspect streamed the attack online with video and audio from his action camera on his helmet. The entire footage is about 35 minutes and was streamed to the gaming website Twitch. The video shows the suspect displaying his weapons and speaking extreme antisemitic content in "poor English".[47] He also used sarcastic gamer-slang and typical German gamer-style language, for example saying to the viewers: "At least I've proven how worthless improvised weapons are" when he realizes his weaponry and plans has failed, and also saying "One hundred percent fail" when he could not enter the synagogue doors.[48]

In the video stream, Balliet denied the Holocaust and said that feminism led to fewer births, so there was mass immigration. Balliet blamed "the Jew" for these issues.[49] During the attack the shooter's homemade explosives[50] repeatedly malfunctioned and he referred to himself as "a loser", being unable to breach any of the synagogue's doors, shooting his own tire by accident and being unable to fire his gun.[16]

In addition to the video, Balliet also left a manifesto which was discovered by the ICSR in London. According to the manifesto, his goal had been to "Kill as many anti-Whites as possible, Jews preferred". Citing a terrorism expert, Spiegel wrote that it was "significant that the attacker wrote and published his manifesto in English...his heroes were people like Breivik and NZ, El Paso attackers."[16]. The manifesto contained photos and descriptions of his home-made weapons arsenal and information about his intentions. The manifesto was steeped in antisemitic and neo-Nazi messages. He claimed to have chosen the Halle synagogue as the target because it was the closest place where he could find "the Jew". He wrote that "if he could kill only one Jew, that was worth the attack". His manifesto showed his belief in a "Jewish world conspiracy". As a means to mock victims and to gain infamy, and show that he enjoyed his crime, he used modern internet far right-slang and "sarcastic" neo-Nazi "meme language" and imagery often found on far right forums such as 4chan.[48][51]

Early lifeEdit

Balliet grew up in Saxony-Anhalt. He learned to handle weapons during his time in the German armed forces having done his six-month military service in the Panzergrenadierbattaillonas an 18-year-old. There he was trained about the assault rifle HK G36 and the pistol HK P8. Evidence of a right-wing attitude has not been found in his military file.[52] He studied "molecular and structural product design" for one year at the age of 22 and after that chemistry for one year at Halle University.[53]

PreparationEdit

The forum Balliet used for his announcement (Meguca) is a so-called imageboard in a chan forum - it has since disappeared from the net. On such boards, Spiegel wrote, users "can dive into pictures and cynical jokes and post anonymous views of ultra-radical views." The contents extend to violence against Jews, Muslims, migrants and women.[54] There he wrote that he had made DIY weapons in recent years using a 3D printer. Anyone who wants, could watch him now in a "live test". It showed a link to his assassination video, recorded by mobile phone, transmitted via Twitch.[55]

Court questioningEdit

Balliet was sent from Saxony-Anhalt by police helicopter to the federal court, Bundesgerichtshof in Karlsruhe. The court appointed local lawyer Hans-Dieter Weber as Balliet's defence counsel. At their first meeting Balliet asked Weber, if he was Jewish and when the lawyer said no, responded "Even if you were a Jew, I would not reject you now." Weber said that by recording the crime, Balliet had himself provided evidence.[56] Asked about possible role models for his crime, Balliet said, he was "aware of" and "followed" major assassinations, including the massacre of the Norwegian right-wing terrorist Anders Breivik and the Christchurch mosque shootings while denying that he had been motivated by these crimes.[57]

ReactionsEdit

At the event commemorating the 30th anniversary of the peaceful revolution in Leipzig, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier called for solidarity with the fellow Jewish citizens. Chancellor Angela Merkel also offered her condolences to the families of the victims and took part in a night vigil in front of Berlin's New Synagogue.[58]

The members of the European Parliament stood for a minute of silence on the day of the attack to remember the victims and send condolences to the families.[59]

Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, told TV station Das Erste that on the day of the attack there were no police patrols close to the Jewish facility in Halle. If the regular police force had been there, the second murder in the shop could have been avoided, Schuster claimed.[60] He described it as "scandalous" that "the synagogue in Halle was not protected by the police on a holiday like Yom Kippur".[10]

The New Zealand government's Department of Internal Affairs has also classified the suspect's livestream footage of the shootings as objectionable, making it illegal to download or distribute in New Zealand. The Chief Censor David Shanks likened the content and filming of the video to the Christchurch mosque shootings in March 2019.[61]

The day after the attack, Spiegel Online published an article citing political scientist Matthias Quent [de], entitled "The lone offender, who was not alone." Quent claimed that the perpetrator was part of a large virtual network and the fact that he streamed the act live and spoke in English displays the importance of this far-right "Human Haters International" for him. Especially because of the far-right subculture on the Internet, it is difficult to avoid such acts, Quent said, since that subculture is not yet fully grasped by security services and social media law enforcement legislation, also he claims there is "barely any research" on the process of how radicalization occurs there.[62]

Security for Jewish institutions across the country was increased.[63]

A day after the attack, Thuringia's Minister for Interior Georg Maier (SPD) and the Bavarian Minister for Interior Joachim Herrmann (CSU) called the nationalistic-völkisch politician Björn Höcke to account. Maier said that Höcke and his party Alternative for Germany (AfD) would be responsible for attacks like this, while they would be "moral arsonists", feeding antisemitic resentments.[64] Jörg Meuthen, the AfD federal spokesman, strongly condemned the attack.[65][66]

According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, "More than 10,000 people marched in Berlin against anti-Semitism and in a show of support for the victims of anti-Semitic violence in the city of Halle" a few days after the attack.[67]

The ruling Islamist political party and military organization of the Gaza Strip, Hamas, denounced the shooting stating it "poses a danger for all people and that terrorism has no religion or is not restricted to a single nation."[68][69]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

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