2019 Halle synagogue shooting
|2019 Halle synagogue shooting|
|Part of Far-right politics in Germany (1945–present)|
Halle Jewish cemetery gate and synagogue on the left
|Location||Halle & Landsberg, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany|
|Date||9 October 2019|
(The date that the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur occurred in 2019)
|Target||Jews and others|
|Weapons||Improvised slam-fire shotgun and submachine gun, improvised explosives|
|3 (including the suspect)|
|Motive||Antisemitism, racism and far-right extremism|
|Part of a series on|
The Halle synagogue shooting was a far-right attack that occurred on 9 October 2019 in Halle, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany, as well as nearby Landsberg. After unsuccessfully trying to enter the city's synagogue during the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, the attacker killed two people nearby and later injured two others. A 27-year-old German citizen from Saxony-Anhalt, Stephan Balliet is in custody . 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".
The attack started around noon 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. 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. The upgrade included a security camera which allowed the congregants inside to view the gunman's attempts to get into the synagogue. 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, reporting the incident; one minute later the police was informed. A nearby female pedestrian who asked about the noise was fatally shot in the back on the street outside the Jewish graveyard. Another pedestrian approached the offender, but his gun jammed, allowing the pedestrian to flee. At 12.11 p.m. the police arrived at the crime scene. The president of Germany's Central Council of Jews, Josef Schuster, described as "scandalous" that "the synagogue in Halle was not protected by the police on a holiday like Yom Kippur".
The attacker then drove by a kebab shop in nearby Ludwig-Wucherer-Straße. He threw a homemade explosive device into the shop, but the device was deflected by the door's frame and detonated outside the shop. Then he opened fire through the front window with a shotgun. A person who was in the shop was injured, and later killed when the attacker re-entered the shop. On the street, the attacker shot at police who returned fire, wounding the attacker in the throat.[failed verification]
Around this time, the office of the mayor of Halle declared a "rampage situation" and asked the local community to stay at home via the German emergency alert system Katwarn and local public media MDR.
The suspect fled in a rented Volkswagen, leading police in an 80 kilometres (50 mi) chase from Halle. First he drove to Wiedersdorf near Landsberg, about 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) north-east of Halle. Armed with combat gear, helmet and homemade weapons, he headed to a workshop and demanded a new car. After an employee inside refused and an electrician also challenged the suspect, he opened fire and shot the electrician. The suspect took a parked taxi from the workshop and raced away. The electrician was later flown to hospital.
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. Via the Autobahn A9, the suspect continued his escape south, passing Leipzig. At Weißenfels, he drove off the motorway and turned onto the federal highway B91 in the direction of Zeitz. At Werschen, a village in the Hohenmölsen municipality, he caused an accident at a single-lane construction site, crashing a truck. After a rear-end collision, Balliet was captured by police officers, including SEK forces. He had sustained minor injuries.
Security for Jewish institutions across the country was increased.
This attempted attack on the synagogue in Halle took place in the context of a significant increase in far-right violence in Germany. Out of a total of 24,000 right-wing extremists in Germany in 2018, the Federal Ministry of the Interior classified 12,700 as potentially violent. In the same year, the number of antisemitic crimes also increased by almost twenty percent. In June 2019, right-wing extremist Stephan Ernst had committed the murder of Walter Lübcke, who was backing Germany's refugee policy. The perpetrator of Halle also linked his crime to this political murder case.
All Jewish facilities in Germany are entitled to state security precautions. The police protection of Jewish facilities is a consequence of the Munich attack of 1972, in which Israeli Olympians were killed by Palestinian terrorists. 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 synagogue of Halle for Yom Kippur in 2019. Daniel Neumann, director of the state union of Jewish communities in Hesse, indicated that smaller Jewish congregations do not have the financial resources for advanced security gear, including security doors and CCTV.
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. In the kebab shop the suspect shot dead a 20-year-old male from Merseburg.
In his flight the suspect shot at a couple in Landsberg, wounding a 40-year-old woman and a 41-year-old man. The two were admitted to Halle's university hospital with gunshot wounds and successfully underwent surgery.
In the first hours after the attack, security services worked on the assumption of multiple perpetrators. 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.
The Federal Prosecutor (Generalbundesanwalt) took over the investigation since the attack is a potential violation of Germany's internal security. The prosecutor indicated that it is investigating a "murder with special significance". According to the prosecutor's spokesperson, for now there are no indications of a terrorist organisation. 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.
On 10 October, police searched the house of the suspect in Benndorf near Eisleben, where he had lived together with his mother. They found 4 kg of explosives in the car of the suspect.
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.
On the 11th of October 2019 National television ARD put out a 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.
Suspect and motivation
On the day of the attack, 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. In the evening, Federal Minister of the Interior Horst Seehofer said it was "at least" an antisemitic attack.
Like the Christchurch mosque shootings, 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". 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.
Balliet denied the Holocaust. On his motive for the attack, he said that feminism lead to fewer births, so there was mass immigration. Balliet blamed "the Jew" for the alleged issues. During the attack the shooter's homemade explosives 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.
In addition to the video, Balliet also left a manifesto. Here he followed his alleged "role models" Anders Behring Breivik and Brenton Tarrant. It was discovered by the ICSR London. The document contained photos and descriptions of his self-made weapons arsenal and information about his intentions and plans. It was steeped in antisemitic and neo-Nazi messages. He chose the Halle synagogue as the target because it was the closest place where he could find "the Jew". He wrote, if he could kill only one Jew, that was worth the attack. His statement was written in English and 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.
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.
Additional condolences to the victims were offered by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
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.
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.
The day after the attack, Spiegel Online published an article citing political scientist Matthias Quent, 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.
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 politican 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 arsons", feeding antisemitic resentments. Jörg Meuthen, the AfD federal spokesman, strongly condemned the attack.
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