Brutal Antisemitic Assault Outside Hamburg Synagogue Was ‘Terrorist Act,’ Says German Jewish Leader
The head of the Jewish community in the northern German city of Hamburg on Monday denounced a violent antisemitic assault on a Jewish student outside the city’s main synagogue as a “terrorist attack.”
Philippe Stricharz was speaking following the outrage on Sunday afternoon, in which a 26-year-old man who arrived at the Hohe Weide Synagogue for services celebrating the holiday of Sukkot was brutally beaten by an assailant in military fatigues wielding a foldable shovel.
Stricharz told the German dpa news agency that he had chosen the word “terrorist” because “such acts unsettle people and scare them.”
“There is a fear of whether one can even arrive at our Jewish facilities to celebrate festivals without injuries or harassment,” Stricharz said.
Hamburg police and the city’s public prosecutor are treating the attack, which occurred just before 4pm on Sunday, as attempted murder. The assailant — identified as a 29-year-old German from Kazakhstan who was dressed in military uniform — was said to have been in an “extremely confused” state when he was apprehended by police.
Investigators said they found a hand-drawn swastika on a piece of paper in the man’s pocket. They said they were attempting to establish how he came into possession of a military uniform.
On Monday, police searched an apartment in the Langenhorn district of Hamburg where the man had been living.
The victim, now recovering in a hospital, told police that he had never met his assailant before.
According to Stricharz, the victim had been “badly injured,” but his life was not at risk.
“He is brave and valiant,” Stricharz noted.
Stricharz expressed concern that the attack took place despite a police presence at the synagogue, just over one year after a neo-Nazi gunman attempted to massacre Jews attending Yom Kippur services at a synagogue in the central city of Halle.
Among the Germans politicians who furiously denounced the attack was Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. “This is not an isolated incident, this is disgusting antisemitism and we must all oppose it!” he declared on Twitter.
In #Hamburg hat ein Mann wohl einen jüdischen Studenten vor seiner Synagoge mit einer Schaufel angegriffen. Das ist kein Einzelfall, das ist widerlicher Antisemitismus und dem müssen wir uns alle entgegenstellen! Meine Gedanken sind bei dem Studenten, ich wünsche gute Genesung.
— Heiko Maas 🇪🇺 (@HeikoMaas) October 4, 2020
Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht said that the persistence of antisemitism was a “disgrace to our country.”
She added, “We have to stand up to this agitation even more decisively and be there for [the victims] affected by hatred and violence.”
Jewish leaders also expressed anger and dismay. A statement from the Conference of Orthodox Rabbis (ORD) said the attack was “another shock for the Jewish community in Germany.” The statement went on to assert that it was “unbearable to experience hatred and violence against Jews on German streets again and again.”
Antisemitic incidents rose by 13 percent in Germany during 2019, with more than 2,000 episodes reported.
Figures gathered for 2020 suggest that antisemitism has been fueled by conspiracy theories related to the coronavirus pandemic; in the capital Berlin, more than 400 incidents were reported during the first half of this year.
About 200,000 Jews live in Germany, many of them immigrants from the former Soviet Union.