German Biker Gang Stages Vigil to Protect Munich Synagogue During Yom Kippur Services
Members of a German bikers club staged a vigil outside the main synagogue in Munich on Monday pledging to protect the city’s Jewish community as it held services for Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar.
About 70 people — including 20 leather and denim-clad bikers from the “Kuhle Wampe” club — gathered outside the synagogue on Jakobsplatz to mark the first anniversary of the attack by a neo-Nazi gunman on a synagogue in the city of Halle in which two people were murdered.
The club, which actively campaigns against racism and antisemitism, was first launched in the 1970s by bikers who opposed the nationalist and right-wing tendencies that dominated the scene at the time.
Oliver Westermann, a biker who initiated the vigil, told the assembled crowd, “We’re here to protect the synagogue.”
Other members of the club held up a white banner bearing the words “Together for Our Synagogue” in Hebrew.
Other speakers at the event included Charlotte Knobloch — the head of the Munich Jewish community — who recalled her enthusiasm when Westermann suggested the vigil a few weeks ago.
Praising the bikers’ for their commitment, Knobloch said that “the name ‘Yom Kippur’ has sat heavily in our hearts since Halle.”
More than 50 worshippers who attended the Halle synagogue on Yom Kippur in 2019 would have faced a certain massacre at the hands of the gunman, neo-Nazi Stephan Balliet, had the synagogue’s security doors not prevented his entry.
Another speaker at the vigil, Susanne Breit-Kessler, chairwoman of the Bavarian Ethics Council, released two white balloons in memory of the two people murdered by Balliet after he fled the synagogue.
“We give antisemitism, racism and neo-fascism a clear rejection,” she declared, adding, “L’Chaim! To life in diversity.”