In Halle, a right-wing extremist tries to storm the synagogue. He shoots a passer-by and a man in a kebab restaurant. He streams the crime live.
Who can keep track here? SEK officers in Halle after the attack Photo: dpa
On the street in front of the synagogue in Halle lies a corpse, covered with a blue cloth, next to it is a black backpack. Shell casings lie on the asphalt. A person is dead, murdered by gunfire. That much is clear on this Wednesday afternoon in Halle. But so much more remains unclear for the time being.
At noon, a perpetrator had tried to enter the Jewish synagogue in Halle with a rifle. Photos show a man with a helmet in a kind of combat suit, eyewitnesses also speak of it. Community leader Max Privorozki told media that the perpetrator was seen via a surveillance camera, unsuccessfully trying to break down a door. The attacker then allegedly shot at passers-by in front of the synagogue. There were reportedly 70 to 80 worshippers gathered in the place of worship to celebrate the Jewish festival of Yom Kippur.
Media also reported that the perpetrator had placed homemade explosive devices in front of the synagogue. In addition, there was talk of gunshots and explosions at the neighboring Jewish cemetery.
The situation was initially completely unclear. Was there one perpetrator? Were there several?
In any case, the police went out on a large-scale operation – and initially also spoke of several perpetrators. "Please stay in your homes or seek safe places," loudspeaker announcements resounded through Halle. The mayor of Halle, Bernd Wiegand (no party affiliation), convened a staff for "extraordinary events" under his leadership. He initially spoke of an "amok situation". The railroad closed the Halle train station.
Amok situation in the city
Eyewitnesses now also reported shots fired at a kebab store in nearby Ludwig-Wucherer-Strasse, a main thoroughfare. A photo shows the perpetrator with a rifle in front of the store. According to eyewitnesses, the attacker fired into the store and there was another fatality. A video shows one of the perpetrators behind a silver station wagon on Ludwig-Wucherer-Strabe, shooting around from there.
Then the news started to roll in. Reports were circulating that shots had also been fired in Landsberg, 15 kilometers from Halle. The police were also called out to Zeitz and Wiedersdorf. Here, too, the situation remains unclear.
Then, shortly after 1 p.m., the police report two fatalities, a woman and a man. And a little later also an arrest. As it later turns out, it is probably the only perpetrator: Stephan B., 27, from Saxony-Anhalt.
Perpetrator video on the net
The man transmitted his act with a helmet camera on the Internet. The taz was able to view the video. The Holocaust never happened, Stephan B. says there in English before his deed. And the reason for all the problems are the Jews. Then he drives to the synagogue in his car, a rented car, and begins his attack.
It can be seen that Stephan B. has loaded his car full of ammunition – and how he keeps having problems with his weapons. In the video he calls himself a "failure". B. shoots the woman in front of the synagogue in cold blood as a random victim. When he does not succeed in entering the place of worship despite several shots at the door, he drives on in his car – and also finds his next destination, a kebab snack bar, apparently by chance. "Doner, nehmen’ wa," says Stephan B. He storms into the store and shoots a man.
In a subsequent exchange of gunfire with police on the street in front of the store, Stephan B. is apparently wounded in the neck. He drives away in his car. Later, he is arrested by police officers on a country road outside Halle.
There is already a nationwide alarm. Minister President Reiner Haseloff (CDU) cancels a visit to Brussels a short time later. He speaks of a "despicable act". Interior Minister Holger Stahlknecht (CDU) also expresses his "deep concern and shock." "It is difficult to put into words what has happened and is happening in Halle today."
In the chaos, mishaps also happen. The small liberal branch of the Jewish community, which has its prayer room in the north of Halle, is not informed by the police for the time being. They know nothing about the shooting, says a member of the community when the taz calls in the afternoon.
In the meantime, police officers are marching in front of synagogues all over Germany. On federal highways around Halle, officers check cars. Others patrol trains passing through Saxony-Anhalt.
In Berlin, the news from Halle bursts into the ongoing government press conference. Government spokesman Steffen Seibert speaks of "terrible news." His thoughts were with the relatives.
Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office investigates
And the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office reacts: it takes over the investigation in the afternoon. The case is of particular importance and poses a threat to the internal security of the entire country, a spokeswoman tells taz. Later, there is talk of "sufficient evidence for a possible right-wing extremist background.
In the evening, German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) spoke of an "at least anti-Semitic attack." "This is a heinous attack on our peaceful coexistence."
Police on Twitter
"Do not believe rumors. The thoughtless sharing makes our work more difficult"
Earlier in Halle, eyewitnesses expressed their views outside the cordoned-off synagogue. One woman lives on Schillerstrasse, which is almost directly adjacent to the synagogue. "I was at work when this happened," she says, "fortunately." A young woman reports a rumor: there was a hostage situation at an Edeka store in Sudstadt, 70 people. The police denies this on Twitter. She asks to remain calm: "Do not believe rumors and false reports. The thoughtless sharing makes our job more difficult."
A block away, you can see the attacked "Kiez-Doner". A robot is just inside, they say – it should investigate whether there are still explosives in the store. In front of it, police officers bend down again and again and look at something on the ground. Residents are not allowed through to their apartments here either.
One of them gives a television interview, he is said to have been serving when the crime happened in the store. The owner of the store is standing next to him, according to his own statement. He does not want to give his name, "I’d rather not," he said. At the time of the crime, he was not here, he said. "Five, six minutes before, I was there." However, he said, he himself still saw the perpetrator shooting at police officers.
Synagogue will be evacuated
Still in the afternoon, community members are evacuated from the synagogue. It is located on the edge of the Paulusviertel in the north of Halle, a trendy neighborhood of old buildings where many students and employees of the nearby university live. Many Jewish citizens lived in the neighborhood until the 1930s.
The attack is thus the next right-wing terrorist act after the murder of the Kassel district president Walter Lubcke in June. The NSU had already shot ten people, including nine migrants. Synagogues have also been repeatedly targeted by right-wing extremists.