‘Time to Sign Up for Self-Defense Course,’ Says German Jewish Student Leader Following Antisemitic Assault in Hamburg
The head of Germany’s Jewish student union on Tuesday expressed frustration at the ongoing insecurity faced by the country’s Jews, following the brutal antisemitic assault on a Jewish man arriving for Sukkot holiday services at Hamburg’s Hohe Weide Synagogue this past weekend.
“My first thought after the incident in Hamburg was that it’s time to sign up for a self-defense course,” Anna Staroselski — president of the Jewish Students Union in Germany (JSUD) — told the news outlet Jetzt.
“One hears again and again from politicians the wish that Jewish life should be possible without police protection,” Staroleski said. “Fortunately, nobody died in the attack on Sunday, but a man was taken to hospital. Sukkot is actually a public holiday that we Jews celebrate outside. You invite guests. It is a festival of openness. Not a festival where you have to hide yourself.”
Police in Hamburg meanwhile denied that they had provided insufficient protection at the synagogue. They said that the assailant — a 29-year-old ethnic German from Kazakhstan — had immediately been noticed by officers outside the synagogue because of his suspicious behavior, but they had not been able to move in time to prevent him from attacking his victim with a foldable shovel.
“At that very moment, he pulled out the shovel he was hiding and crossed over to attack,” police spokeswoman Sandra Levgrün said on Tuesday. “Even when the police are standing by, that cannot always be prevented.”
Staroleski said that law enforcement officers needed better training when it came to dealing with antisemitism.
“The criminal investigation authorities have to take the concerns of those affected seriously and need further training,” she said.
The assailant in Saturday’s attack, who has not been named, is currently being held in a psychiatric hospital. His 26-year-old victim was released from hospital on Monday after being treated for head injuries.
Following a meeting with Jewish leaders in Hamburg on Tuesday, the city’s mayor, Peter Tschentscher, announced that an official dedicated to combating antisemitism would be appointed.
As well as countering hatred toward Jews, the antisemitism officer would focus on generating positive contacts as well, for example through exchange programs involving Hamburg schoolchildren with their Israeli counterparts, Tschentscher said.