Jewish community horrified of shooting deaths in Germany

October 10, 2019 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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The World Jewish Congress joined the Australan and New Zealand community in being  horrified by the attack outside the synagogue of Halle an der Salle, in eastern Germany with local police confirming that two people were killed and several shots fired.

Halle an der Salle

One suspect has been apprehended so far. Approximately 80 worshippers were in the synagogue at the time of the attack, which was carried out by a man in military fatigues and heavily armed, reportedly shouting “ the root of all problems is the Jews”, who filmed the entire attack from a camera on his helmet and then went on to fire shots in a nearby Turkish restaurant. The synagogue was not guarded by local police.

WJC President Ronald S. Lauder reacted by saying: “It is appalling that on this day — the holiest in the Jewish calendar — when Jews are sitting in synagogues all around the world immersed in prayer, yet another attack against Jews has been perpetrated. Only this morning, German Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier spoke of his concern for ‘Jews being offended and attacked in his country’,” referring to the Federal President’s speech in Leipzig on the 30th anniversary of the pivotal Peaceful Revolution demonstration there. “We are heartened that the German security services reacted so swiftly to this attack, and thank Dr. Felix Klein, Commissioner for Jewish Life in Germany and the Fight Against Antisemitism, and the German authorities for their ongoing support, but now we need action, not words. Unfortunately, the time has come when all Jewish places of worship and Jewish communal sites need to have enhanced round-the-clock security provided by state security services. We also need immediately to launch a unified front against neo-Nazi and other extremist groups, which threaten our well-being. The fact that 75 years after the Holocaust, such groups are gaining influence in Germany speaks volumes. We stand with the Jewish community of Germany at this tragic time.”

Dr. Josef Schuster, President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, and WJC Vice President added: “The act of Halle on the highest Jewish holiday Yom Kippur has deeply distressed and frightened our community. First and foremost, however, we are shocked that two people were killed by the unscrupulous culprit. Our sincere condolences are with their families. We also take care of the injured and wish them a speedy and complete recovery.

The perpetrator tried to invade the synagogue, and the neighbouring Jewish cemetery was also attacked so that an antisemitic motive is to be assumed. The brutality of the attack surpasses anything that has happened in recent years and is a profound shock to all Jews in Germany. The fact that the synagogue in Halle was not protected by the police on a holiday like Yom Kippur is scandalous. This negligence has now avenged itself bitterly. Miraculously, not more evil has happened. ”

The attacker failed to enter the synagogue. He fatally shot a woman passerby in the back at the street outside the nearby Jewish graveyard. Afterwards, he drove by a Turkish kebab shop in a nearby street. Reports state the attacker threw an explosive at the shop and opened fire with a shotgun. A painter, who was in the shop, was killed.

The New Zealand Jewish Council reacted to the attack especially as the perpetrator filmed it as did the attacker did as he carried out the killings of 59 Muslims in Christchurch.

President Stephen Goodman released this statement: “The New Zealand Jewish Council is horrified to learn of the attempted white supremacist attack on a synagogue in Halle, Germany, on the most sacred day of the Jewish year, Yom Kippur. Our condolences go to the loved ones of the two people murdered by the attacker outside the synagogue. We are also grateful that primarily due to the security measures the synagogue had in place, another massacre of Jews in their place of worship was thwarted.

Given the clear parallels with the Christchurch attacks, including the attacker live-streaming the incident, we are yet again painfully reminded of the vulnerability of our community and the vital need for protection. We wish to thank the New Zealand Police for their support and presence yesterday, allowing us to reflect on the year that has been, and pray for a better one this year, in which the scourge of violent antisemitism may be defeated.”

In Australia Alex Ryvchin, co-CEO of The Executive Council of Australian Jewry told J-Wire: “The Executive Council of Australian Jewry, the peak representative body of the Australian Jewish community is appalled and outraged by the attempted massacre of Jewish worshippers in a synagogue in the German city of Halle.

While the complete facts are still being ascertained, it appears that a heavily armed German citizen dressed in full combat gear and motivated by neo-Nazi ideology attempted to blast his way into a synagogue in Halle during Yom Kippur services, and upon failing to force entry, proceeded to shoot and kill at least two civilians in the vicinity of the synagogue. It is also understood that the murderer has posted a manifesto professing a white nationalist world-view and live-streamed the attempted massacre on a gaming platform during which he stated that “the root of all problems are the Jews.”

Yom Kippur is the Jewish day of atonement and the holiest day in the Jewish calendar when Jews gather together to reflect on the past year and to consider the year ahead. The deliberate attempt to carry out a shooting in a synagogue on such a day reveals a monstrous intent to kill as many people as possible, simply because they are Jews.

It appears that a massacre was only averted because the synagogue had sophisticated security measures in place. This follows an incident earlier this week, when a Syrian citizen attempted to gain entry into a synagogue in Berlin armed with a knife and shouting “F**k Israel” and “Allahu Akhbar” before being subdued and disarmed by security guards.

This latest event challenges the very basis of liberal democracy. If people in free societies cannot gather with their co-religionists to practise their faith for fear of being annihilated, it tears at the fabric of human freedom. This is why the scourge of antisemitic terror is not merely a paramount Jewish concern, it should unite all decent people and harden our determination to exterminate the evil of antisemitism once and for all.

Dr Colin Rubenstein executive director of The Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council stated: “It is difficult to express the sense of shock and outrage at the murderous attack on the synagogue in Halle, Germany, while Jewish people were at prayer on the holiest day of the Jewish year.

This was an attack not just on Jews, but on the civil liberties and rights which define free societies, namely the right to practice one’s religion in safety. It was particularly heinous, coinciding as it did with a time when the greatest number of Jews were at synagogue.

The Australian Jewish community is well aware of the dangers of racist extremism. With violence against Jewish targets from far-right, Islamist terrorists and other groups, Jewish communities around the world have been forced to adopt an array of security measures. In Germany, these precautions prevented many more casualties.

While  physical security is of vital importance, it is equally essential that our leaders, both at home and abroad, recognise the danger posed by anti-Jewish and far-right-wing and other extremism, publicly name the problem and show the political leadership necessary to deal with it in its local and international manifestations.”

The ZCNSW president Richard Balkin stated: “As we concluded the Holy Yom Kippur services here in Sydney, our hearts break at the news of the horrific shooting attack in Halle Germany, where a gunman killed two people, as he sought to storm a Synagogue, while Jews were making the holiest day of our year.

As we concluded the Holy Yom Kippur services here in Sydney, our hearts break at the news of the horrific shooting attack in Halle Germany, where a gunman killed two people, as he sought to storm a Synagogue, while Jews were making the holiest day of our year.

Our thoughts and prayers are first and foremost with the victims. May their memories be blessed and all those injured have full and speedy recoveries.

Yesterday’s shooting in Halle follows an attack on a Synagogue in Berlin just the other day, when a terrorist carrying a knife tried to attack a Synagogue, but was stopped by security. In the last year alone, as we mark 80 years since the start of WWII and the Holocaust, Germany saw 71.4% increase in Antisemitic attacks.

Regrettably, here in Australia, we too are not immune to such hate and Antisemitism, as seen in the last weeks and recent times. While our thoughts are foremost with our brothers and sisters in the Jewish community of Germany, we know that only immediate, determined and tangible action will suffice, in the wake of such Antisemitism.“

In New Zealand, the Holocaust Centre of New Zealand, vehemently condemned the terror attacks that occurred on Wednesday on Yom Kippur.

Board Chair, Deborah Hart, said:  “We are increasingly concerned at the rise in antisemitic attacks worldwide.

It’s important to remember that no terrorism starts with an act of terror. All terrorism starts with words.

The idea of the ‘lone wolf’ no longer exists. Particularly with the rise of social media, someone, somewhere would have heard this man speaking, should have been concerned, and should have challenged him.

We need to replace the idea of the lone wolf with idea of the lone person standing. You simply cannot be bystanders – we need to be upstanders – loudly and clearly replying to words of hate and Holocaust denial and say that they are unacceptable.

Everyone is familiar with the saying, which much of our work at the Holocaust Centre is focused on, that the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. This has to stop. And the only way that that is going to happen is if we all, every single last one of us as individuals, is prepared to be that upstander.”

President of the ZFA Jeremy Leibler said, “it is abhorrent to think that while Jews were inside, their hearts full of love and forgiveness while praying on the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, a force of evil stood outside, filled with hatred hoping to open fire on them for the very reason that they were Jewish.”

“Our community stands in solidarity with the Jewish community in Halle, and sends its deepest condolences to the families of the two innocent bystanders who were murdered in this senseless attack.”

“We strongly condemn the attack and the blatant antisemitism that incited it.”

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