HALLE, Germany – A heavily armed assailant ranting about Jews tried to force his way into a synagogue in Germany on Yom Kippur, Judaism's holiest day, then shot two people to death nearby in an attack Wednesday that was livestreamed on a gaming site.
The attacker shot at the door of the synagogue in the city of Halle but did not get in as 70 to 80 people inside were observing the holy day.
The gunman shouted that Jews were “the root” of “problems” such as feminism and “mass immigration,” according to a group that tracks online extremism. It said a roughly 36-minute video posted online featured the assailant, who spoke a combination of English and German, denying the Holocaust before he shot a woman in the street after failing to enter the synagogue. He then entered a nearby kebab shop and killed another person before fleeing.
Germany's top security official, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, said authorities must assume that it was an anti-Semitic attack, and said prosecutors believe there may be a right-wing extremist motive.
The attack “strikes the Jewish community, Jewish people not just in Germany but particularly in Germany, to the core,” said the country's main Jewish leader, Josef Schuster. “It was, I think, only lucky circumstances that prevented a bigger massacre.”
The filming of Wednesday's attack echoed another horrific shooting halfway around the world when a far-right white supremacist in March killed 51 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand and livestreamed much of the attack on Facebook. That massacre drew strong criticism of social media giants for not immediately finding and blocking such a violent video.
Wednesday's assault followed attacks in the United States over the past year on synagogues in Pittsburgh and Poway, California.
The head of Halle's Jewish community, Max Privorozki, told news magazine Der Spiegel that a surveillance camera at the entrance of the synagogue showed a person trying to break into the building. “But the door remained closed – God protected us.”