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Germany: Halle Attacker Gets Life in Prison

The Higher Regional Court in Naumburg just sentenced Stephan Balliet to life in prison. He had tried to kill many Jews at the Synagogue of Halle. Since he could not get in, he murdered two passersby.

Berlin, December 21st, 2020 (The Berlin Spectator) — On October 9th, 2019, Stephan Balliet, a right-wing extremist, drove to the Synagogue of Halle, where dozens of Jews were celebrating Yom Kippur. His plan was to kill them all. But since he failed to get through the synagogue’s door, he shot and killed a 40-year-old lady on a bicycle and a man aged 20 at a fast food place.

Appeal Still Possible

Balliert streamed his shooting spree live on the Internet. After a long chase, police arrested him. Now, 14 months later, he got life, the maximum penalty, for two murders and attempted murder in many cases. The court ordered a preventive detention afterwards, meaning Stephan Balliet might never get out of prison. The verdict can still be appealed.

The judge called the attack a “cowardly act”, while the defendant just noted the verdict expressionlessly. He had continued spreading extremist right-wing propaganda throughout the trial and still denies the Holocaust.

Violence and Murder

In spite of the fact that the Synagogue of Halle was not protected by police at the time, which it should have been, just like most other Jewish facilities in Germany, Balliet was prevented from implementing his plan. A stable door stopped him from entering the temple, in spite of the shots he fired at it. During the getaway, he hit a man with his car and took shots at police officers.

The case showed that the spread of hatred, including antisemitism, can indeed lead to violence and murder, just like experts had said in the past years while antisemitism increased again in Germany, three quarters of a century after the Holocaust. Jew-hatred is being spread by right-wing extremists like Bailliet, the people he listened to and other Nazis across the country. In addition, there is antisemitism in the far-left and in Germany’s large and diverse Muslim community.

‘No Tolerance for Hatred’

The trial took place in Saxony-Anhalt’s largest court room in Magdeburg. This decision was taken for security reasons and because of the interest in this case, due to its gruesome nature. A total of 79 witnesses were questioned.

In Berlin, the Central Council of Jews in Germany reacted to the verdict. Its President Joseph Schuster welcomed it and thanked the court for a fair and judicious conduct. “This is an important day for Germany”, Schuster stated. “That is because the verdict shows that there is no tolerance for homicidal hatred towards Jews.”

‘No Place for Hateful Rhetoric’

“I commend the German justice system for imposing the harshest possible sentence on a heartless, vicious antisemite who attempted to murder Jews in a synagogue on the holiest day of the Jewish year, and took the lives of two innocent people who happened to be in his way”, Ronald Lauder, the President of the World Jewish Congress, said.

“Federal Prosecutor Kai Lohse appropriately emphasized to the court and the world that the assailant attacked ‘Jewish life in Germany as a whole,’ and that the rampage was a product of his ‘racist, xenophobic and antisemitic ideology.”

“The speed, follow-through and decisiveness of this trial is a definitive example of how the judicial system must respond to such horrific violence making crystal-clear there is no place for such hateful, harmful rhetoric or behavior in society”, Lauder stated.