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10.10.2019 Europe

France's Jewish community 'horrifed' over Germany attack

Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch
LISTEN OCT 10, 2019
Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch

The French Jewish community have expressed 'horror' at the attack  on the Halle synagogue in eastern Germany on the holy day of Yom Kippur.  German leaders visited the scene where a gunman killed two people, apparently at random,.

Anti-terrorist prosecutors confirmed that they were taking over the probe and German Jews have called on the authorities to protect the community from neo-Nazi-type violence.

Greater vigilance, French experience
In France, the executive director of the Crif, the Council to Represent Jewish Institutions in France, said a massacre was prevented because the attacker was thwarted, "we were horrified to learn about this attack on the most holy day of the year when people who don't usually go to synagogue would worship on that day. " said Robert Ejnes.

"Since the attack on the synagogue in Rue Copernic in 1980, we have a protection service within the community which teaches the personnel how to protect the different prayer buildings."

France has had more recent anti-semitic as well as other xenophobic attacks which have led to increased security.  After the attack on a Jewish school in Toulouse in 2012 where children and a teacher were gunned down, the French government stepped up security for every Jewish building in the country, synagogues, Jewish schools and community centres. The measures were reinforced after the attacks in 2015. Today mobile patrols are active.

Responsibility for Jewish life
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, joined by Israeli ambassador Jeremy Issacharoff and local officials, laid flowers outside the synagogue in Halle, Saxony-Anhalt State, before meeting with local Jewish community leaders inside as well as head of The Central Council of Jews in Germany, Josef Schuster went to the eastern German town of Halle on Thursday.

"It must be clear that the state takes responsibility for Jewish life, for the security of Jewish life in Germany. We must protect Jewish life" said Steinmeier.

Schuster has lashed out at the authorities for failing to provide adequate security for the congregation. The congregation of between 70 and 80 people barricaded themselves inside the synagogue after seeing the attacker's attempts to get in via their own security cameras, and waited for the police.

Halle attack details so far
The suspect had besieged the temple with gunfire and homemade explosives. He then shot dead a woman passing by the synagogue, and a man in a nearby Turkish restaurant.

Police captured the man after wounding him in a gun battle. The suspect, identified by media as 27-year-old German Stephan Balliet, filmed the assault and streamed it online.

Exorcising German ghosts
Chancellor Angela Merkel joined a solidarity vigil at an historic synagogue in central Berlin late Wednesday, and firmly condemned the attack.

Wednesday's attack comes just three months after a Christian Democrat politician, Walter Luebcke, was murdered in the western city of Kassel, allegedly by a known neo-Nazi. Luebcke had backed Merkel's more migrant-friendly policy.

Germany's interior minister said last month the rise of extreme-right violence and Islamist radicalisation are equally dangerous.

Germany has worked hard since the end of World War II to revive the Jewish community after German Jews were decimated by Hitler and the Nazi plan to anhiliate the Jews in the 1930s and up till 1945.

Today about 225,000 Jews live in Germany, many of them arriving from the former Soviet Union after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

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