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July 22, 2020 12:54 pm

Neo-Nazi Gunman Wears ‘Big Grin’ as Court Views Footage of Yom Kippur Attack on German Synagogue

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avatar by Ben Cohen

Neo-Nazi Stephan Balliet on trial in Germany for an October 2019 gun attack on a synagogue in the central city of Halle. Photo: Reuters / Hendrik Schmidt.

The second day of the trial of a German neo-Nazi for a gun attack on a synagogue in the central city of Halle on Yom Kippur last year saw the defendant smiling widely as video footage of his outrage was broadcast on a screen in the courtroom.

German media outlets reported that the 29-year-old gunman, Stephan Balliet, wore a “big grin” as prosecution lawyers replayed the same video that Balliet had livestreamed during the attack on Oct. 9, 2019.

Contrastingly, many of the plaintiffs attending the trial averted their eyes when the video was shown, while others left the room overcome by emotion.

The court was reminded of how, on the day of the attack, a heavily-armed Balliet had driven to the synagogue on Halle’s Humboldtstrasse just before noon, as more than 50 worshipers inside the sanctuary held religious services marking Yom Kippur, Judaism’s holiest day.

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After failing to break through the synagogue’s locked entrance despite exploding a grenade, a frustrated Balliet shot dead a 40-year-old female passerby. When additional violent attempts to force his way inside the building were similarly unsuccessful, Balliet left the synagogue in his car, driving to a a small kebab restaurant where he shot dead a 20-year-old man, believing him to be a Muslim.

During questioning on Tuesday, Balliet revealed himself as an obsessive antisemite who blamed the Jews for both his personal failings and the social tensions in his country.

Balliet told the trial court in the city of Naumburg that the “Jews were the organizers” of the massive influx of Syrian refugees into Germany in 2015. Asked why he had chosen to attack a synagogue rather than a mosque, he replied: “There is a difference between fighting the symptoms and fighting the cause.”

Balliet said he had livestreamed his attack in the hope of encouraging copycat acts.

“You can achieve very little yourself, even if you work efficiently,” he said. “But you can reach others who want to fight.” Pressed on who these “others” were, Balliet answered “white men,” approvingly citing the March 2019 massacre at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, carried out by a white supremacist.

At the same time, Balliet confessed before the court that he had little self-esteem remaining, largely because he had failed to kill any Jews or other minorities during his attack. The fact that the woman and the man he murdered were both white and not Jewish had made him “look ridiculous to the world,” he said.

A report of the proceedings in Der Tagesspiegel observed that “Balliet speaks of himself like a loser: without friends, he lived largely alone in his child’s room in his mother’s apartment. The world [was a] source of constant concern, increasing anger.”

Balliet’s trial meanwhile continues amid unprecedented measures to provide security in the courtroom for those providing testimony.

A total of 147 witnesses are scheduled appear at the trial, including 68 police officers and the 43 co-plaintiffs against the neo-Nazi.

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