German Investigators Treating Essen Synagogue Attack as Antisemitic Hate Crime
German police announced on Tuesday that they were treating a gun attack on a former synagogue in the city of Essen as a hate crime.
Speaking to the dpa news agency, senior public prosecutor Holger Heming said the assumption behind the investigation was that the attack was “motivated by extremism and antisemitism.”
Investigators at the scene meanwhile said they had discovered two bullet holes in the roof of the building now used as a synagogue by the Jewish community in Essen. Forensic analysis reportedly revealed that the damage was about one month old. As of Tuesday, it was unclear whether the incident at the new synagogue was connected to the attack on the Old Synagogue, which is located a mile away.
A Byzantine structure that was first consecrated in 1913, the Old Synagogue survived the ravages of Nazi rule and now houses a museum and memorial center. The shots discovered last week were fired at the neighboring rabbi’s house, which is now the site of the Salomon Ludwig Steinheim Institute for German-Jewish History at the University of Duisburg-Essen.
Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, the German government’s antisemitism commissioner in the state of North-Rhine Westphalia, said she hoped the investigation “will quickly establish the perpetrators and the background.”
“As a society as a whole, we must fight antisemitism. It is not the job of the Jews,” she said. “We want Jewish life in Germany to be an indispensable part of our society. We have to protect it.”
The attack in Essen was strongly condemned by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier in an address to a rabbinical ordination ceremony on Monday.
“We cannot tolerate any antisemitism in Germany,” Steinmeier told the audience in the city of Hanover. “Such acts must be punished with all the severity of the rule of law.”
Five rabbis — Nehorai Daus, Mendel Itkin, Meir Yisroel Myropolskyy, Shimshon Pushenco and Bryan Weisz — were ordained at Monday’s ceremony, the first to be held in Hanover since the end of World War II. The five are all graduates of the Hildesheimer Rabbinical Seminary in Berlin.
Steinmeier said that the ordination of the rabbis symbolized a “day of hope and joy.”
“You are all helping to build the foundation of our cohesion, our democracy: peaceful coexistence of religions and respect for the dignity of every person who lives here,” the German president said.