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24th Jul 2021

European Jews call for 'united front' after German attack

  • Halle district where Wednesday's attack took place (Photo: Felix Abraham)

Jewish leaders have raised alarm on the climate of hate in Europe after an antisemitic attack in Germany killed two people on Wednesday (9 October).

"Unfortunately the time has come when all Jewish places of worship and Jewish communal sites [in Germany] need to have enhanced round-the-clock security provided by state security services," Ronald Lauder, the president of the World Jewish Congress in Geneva, said.

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"We also need immediately to launch a unified front against neo-Nazi and other extremist groups, which threaten our well-being," he added.

"The fact that, 75 years after the Holocaust, such groups are gaining influence in Germany speaks volumes," he said.

The attacker, a 27-year old German national called Stephan B., shot dead one victim outside a synagogue in the town of Halle in east Germany at 1PM earlier the same day.

He killed a second person at a Turkish kebab shop nearby before German police stopped him.

The attack took place on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.

Stephan B. shouted that the "root of all problems is the Jews" and live streamed his rampage online in imitation of the Christchurch mosque shooting - an antisemitic massacre in New Zealand in March this year.

Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, offered her "deepest condolences" at a vigil in Berlin.

"Our solidarity is with Germany's Jews on this Yom Kippur. Our thanks go out to security forces still deployed," her spokesman also said.

It "touches all our hearts. We must all act against antisemitism in our country", Heiko Mass, the German foreign minister said.

Stephan B., who also shouted misogynist slogans, is said to have acted alone.

But the Halle attack comes in times of rising antisemitism in Europe.

Over 60 percent of German people and more than half of those in France, The Netherlands, and Sweden felt that antisemitism had "increased" in the past five years in a survey by the EU's Fundamental Right Agency in Vienna earlier this year.

The attack also comes amid what Europol, the EU's joint police agency, called "escalation of extreme right-wing sentiments across Europe", in a terrorism trend report in June.

"While the vast majority of right-wing extremist groups across the EU have not resorted to violence, they nevertheless help entrench a climate of fear and animosity against minority groups," Europol said.

"Such a climate, built on xenophobia, antisemitic, Islamophobic and anti-immigration sentiments, may lower the threshold for some radicalised individuals to use violence," it added.

Holger Muench, the head of Germany's federal criminal police, the BKA, said earlier this year he had 41 far-right "potential terrorists" and 112 other extremists considered a "direct threat" on his watchlist.

And Josef Schuster, the president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, echoed the World Jewish Congress in criticising Germany's security arrangements.

"It is scandalous that police were not protecting the synagogue in Halle on a holiday like Yom Kippur," he said.

Germany spends just 0.7 percent of its GDP on policing and 0.05 percent on intelligence, which includes counter-terrorism, according to research by Mark Galeotti, a British security expert at University College in London.

That puts it behind the UK (1.1 percent on police and 0.15 percent on intelligence). It also puts it behind Bulgaria and Hungary in GDP terms.

And none of the Nato or EU states in Europe spend anywhere near 2 percent of their GDP on internal security, by comparison with the Nato spending benchmark for territorial defence.

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