Jewish leader in Germany: Police did not provide adequate protection to attacked synagogue

President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany Dr. Josef Schuster (pictured centre, with arms crossed) (Wikimedia Commons/Freud/

A Jewish leader in Germany doubled down on his accusation that police did not adequately protect the Halle synagogue targeted by a gunman on Yom Kippur.

The gunman opened fire near the synagogue in eastern Germany during services Wednesday and at a kebab shop, killing two, in an attack that he livestreamed from a helmet camera. The assailant said that Jews are “the root of all problems.”

In response to the attack, Michael Frankel, Chair of Jewish Federations of Canada-UIA, and Joel Reitman and Jeffrey L. Rosenthal, Co-Chairs of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), issued the following statement:

“We are heartbroken, shocked, and furious to learn that the Jewish community of Halle was the target of a murderous anti-Semitic attack. We grieve the loss of the two bystanders whose lives were torn from them and we extend our deepest condolences to their families. We wish a full and speedy recovery to the wounded,” said Michael Frankel.

“CIJA is deeply troubled by the deteriorating security situation faced by the Jewish community in Germany where anti-Semitic assaults have been rising for the past two years. We join our partners from the Central Council of Jews in Germany in calling on German authorities for heightened police security around Jewish institutions in the country,” added Joel Reitman.

“The CIJA security team, as managers of the National Community Security Program, remain in close contact with Canadian law enforcement who have indicated that there is no information to suggest an elevated threat level in Canada. As a precaution, police have increased patrols around Jewish institutions. Even though there is no indication of an elevated threat, there always remains the possibility of copy-cat attacks. We therefore urge members of the Jewish community to remain vigilant, follow established community security protocols, and continue with the normal activities of life. If you see something suspicious, report it to police immediately. Should the security situation change, we will notify our community through all our channels,” added Jeff Rosenthal.

“If police had been stationed outside the synagogue, then this man could have been disarmed before he could attack the others,” Josef Schuster, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, told Deutschlandfunk public radio on Thursday, Reuters reported.

The German media identified the gunman as Stephan Balliet, a 27-year-old German.

Schuster had said Wednesday evening in a statement that it was “scandalous that the synagogue in Halle was not protected by the police on a holiday like Yom Kippur.”

The synagogue’s high and strong metal doors were secured shut during the services and repelled the gunman’s attack, which reportedly was undertaken with homemade weapons that may have malfunctioned.

The head of Germany’s police union responded that the police could not provide such protection, according to Reuters.

“We’d have to guard every synagogue, every church, every mosque, every holy place in Germany around the clock, so I don’t know if this was a mistake or if this really couldn’t have been foreseen,” Oliver Malchow, the federal chairman of the union of the police, reportedly told public television in an interview.