German Synagogue Attacked by Neo-Nazi Gunman Was Poorly Protected by Authorities, Expert Tells Trial
The trial of the neo-Nazi gunman who attempted to massacre worshipers attending Yom Kippur services in the central German city of Halle in October 2019 heard this week from an expert who asserted that the synagogue had been poorly protected by the local authorities.
“From our point of view, the authorities should have known that the protection was inadequate,” Benjamin Steinitz — managing director of Rias, a federal body researching antisemitism — told the Naumburg Higher Regional Court on Tuesday.
Steinitz told the court that security assessments for Germany’s Jewish communities were made at local level, and that officials often did not appreciate the Jewish community’s concerns.
In the case of the Halle attack, the local police, the State Criminal Police Office and Saxony-Anhalt’s Interior Minister Holger Stahlknecht all insisted in its aftermath that they had no advance evidence of a threat to the synagogue.
“For German Jews, the attack was not so surprising,” Steinitz said. “Antisemitism never disappeared from Germany, not even after the Holocaust.”
On Oct. 9, 2019, the day of Yom Kippur, 29-year-old Stephan Balliet — an armed neo-Nazi extremist — drove to the synagogue on Halle’s Humboldtstrasse just before noon, as more than 50 worshipers inside the sanctuary held religious services. Balliet was equipped with eight firearms, several explosive devices, a helmet and a protective vest for the attack.
Having failed to break through the synagogue’s locked entrance despite exploding a grenade, a frustrated Balliet shot dead a 40-year-old female passerby. After additional violent attempts to force his way inside the building were similarly unsuccessful, Balliet sped away from the synagogue in his car.
He then drove to his next target — a small kebab restaurant where four diners and an employee were present. Balliet shot dead a 20-year-old man at the restaurant, believing him to be a Muslim.
Balliet was apprehended by police about an hour later, after he crashed his vehicle in a panicked attempt to flee the city.