October 9, 2019: The Halle Synagogue Shooting


WHAT HAPPENED?


On October 9, 2019, a far-right extremist murdered 2 people and injured 2 others when trying to enter the Halle Synagogue during Yom Kippur.


The attacker was 27-year-old German neo-Nazi Stephan Balliet. He was charged with 2 counts of murder and 7 counts of attempted murder. He confessed to charges in November of 2019, and was scheduled to stand trial during the summer of 2020.

BACKGROUND AND ATTACK


The threat of far-right attacks had been increasing in the previous 2 years, according to German authorities, with the rise of extremist and fringe groups in Germany. It was reported that, as of April 2019, around 12,700 Germans were inclined to violence, and nearly 24,000 were considered far right extremists.


In 2018, anti-Semitic hate crimes, and hate crimes targeting foreigners, each increased by nearly 20%.


All Jewish facilities in Germany are kept safe by state security precautions after the Munich massacre of 1972 during the Summer Olympics. However, smaller Jewish congregations did not have the financial resources for increased safety measures, and thus there were no extra security precautions at the Halle synagogue at the time of the attack.


At around noon on Yom Kippur, one of the holiest Jewish holidays of the year, the attack began. The attacker arrived after driving 45-minutes from a neighboring city where, surprise, he lived with his mom. He live streamed his attempt to enter the synagogue, shooting the door's locks repeatedly trying to enter the building, but the safety precautions in place at the building prevented him from entering.


Their safety system allowed the 51 congregants inside to view the gunman's horrifying attempt to enter the building the were worshipping in. He began igniting homemade explosives to try to enter, which still did not work. The police were called at 12:03.


During his enter attempt, a female passerby was shot fatally shot several times near the entrance to the cemetery near the synagogue, after confronting the attacker for making noise. She did not realize he was shooting inside, and just thought he was causing a ruckus. A man stopped to help the woman, and survived when his gun failed to fire.


At this point, he had killed 1 person and realized he was not going to be able to get inside of the synagogue, and he drove to a nearby Turkish kebab shop. He opened fire through the front window. One customer was injured but survived, until he returned later and killed him.


Police realized they were dealing with a "rampage situation" and alerted the public to stay home, and closed the city's trains station for civilian safety. The police believed, at first, that there were multiple perpetrators. The killer, Stephan Balliet, was eventually caught about 50 miles outside of the city after a car chase.


The security team assigned to the case determined that there was no further threat to internal security, and that there was no evidence of an outside terrorist organization being involved. Just a classic home grown right-wing extremist. Balliet did not have any prior criminal history at the time of the rampage.

THE VICTIMS AND THE KILLER


The woman who was killed was named Jana, 40. She was described as a happy woman who was a huge music lover. She had recently gone to a Stefan Mross concert. He expressed his sympathy for her death, noting she was one of their biggest fans.


The kebab shop customer who was killed was named Kevin, 20. He was a huge football fan. He worked as a painter and had been working all day before stopping for lunch at the nearby shop. He would travel far and wide to see the Hallescher FC games.


A couple, Jens and Dagmar, were shot, but survived the attack. The killer had fled the kebab shop and knocked on their door. Jens was shot in the neck when he refused to hand over the keys to his car, and Dagmar was shot in the thigh when she went to help her husband. They both survived their life-threatening injuries.


Stephen Balliet, a 27-year-old German neo-Nazi, grew up in Saxony-Anhalt and spend time in the military where he learned how to handle weapons. Balliet live streamed the attack online with a video on his helmet. The video lasted about 35 minutes, and he streamed it in Twitch.


In his livestream, he denied the Holocaust and claimed that feminism was the reason for fewer births in Germany, and ultimately blamed Jews for all of those issues. He kept referring to himself as "a loser" for being unable to enter the synagogue and when his homemade explosives failed to go off, a sentiment I think we can all agree on.


And, would it be a right-wing terrorist attack without him leaving a manifesto behind? Nope! In said manifesto, he said his goal was to "kill as many anti-Whites as possible, Jews preferred". He said "if he could only kill one Jew, that was worth the attack". He also used modern internet far-right slang and "sarcastic neo-Nazi meme language" which I did not realize existed, but alright.


All of this to say, he was exactly the type of guy who would plan an attack on an innocent synagogue, fail, and then kill 2 random, innocent people in a rage.

LEGAL PROCEEDINGS


During his hearing on October 11, 2019, Balliet confessed to his crime. He also confirmed the absolutely not debated fact that he was a right-wing extremist and had committed the crime under an anti-Semitic motive. He testified at length, and said that he hoped to perpetrate a massacre powerful enough to inspire others to engage in similar right-wing extremist and anti-Semitic hate crimes.


On April 21, 2020, prosecutors announced that he had been charged with 2 counts of murder, and the attempted murder of 68 people, as well as incitement, bodily harm, and predatory extortion. He asked his court-appointed lawyer if he was a Jew, and he said no, to which he responded, "Even if you were a Jew, I would not reject you now." Ah, nice. His lawyer was like, hello sir, you recorded yourself doing this, so it doesn't look great.


Balliet admitted that he "followed" major massacres and assassinations, including the 2011 Norway attacks and the Christchurch mosque shooting, but denied that he had been inspired by them.


In June 2020, Balliet tried to escape from prison by climbing an 11-foot fence during a recreation period. He was captured only 5 minutes later and transferred to a maximum security prison. He was supposed to go through trial during the summer of 2020, though it appears it may have been delayed due to COVID. He faces life in prison if found guilty, which seems very possible due to the aforementioned confession and video evidence.


I think sometimes living in what is sometimes a bit of a cesspool in the United States, I forget that there are similar situations in other countries. Though mass shootings are far less common in nearly every other developed nation in the world, that doesn't mean that they don't have right-wing extremism and their own version of "Trump supporters". A man who is from Germany, who most certainly was taught extensively about the horrors of the Holocaust that happened in his country, denied it and decided to live his entire life hating Jewish people and blaming them for everything wrong with the country. Stupidity and hate are, it seems, not a uniquely American thing. I just hear about it more here.


I hope that Balliet's trial happens soon so the families of the 2 people who were senselessly murdered at his hand get the closure they deserve. Hopefully by the end of this year, he is behind bars for life.

REFERENCES:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halle_synagogue_shooting

https://www.dw.com/en/germany-synagogue-attack-who-were-the-victims-in-halle/a-50875421

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jul/21/german-man-goes-on-trial-for-deadly-halle-synagogue-shooting-stephan-balliet


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