German bishops and statesmen have expressed their horror at the attack on the synagogue in Halle on the Saale on 9 October and declared their solidarity with the German Jewish community and all Jews living in Germany.
Conference president Cardinal Reinhard Marx said in his message from Rome, where he is attending the Amazon Synod, that he was “horrified and deeply shattered by the cowardly attack”. The perpetrator had obviously deliberately chosen the most important Jewish holiday, Yom Kippur, “in order to shed (Jewish) blood”. “We stand in solidarity beside our Jewish fellow citizens. There must be no place for anti-Semitism let alone blind violence in our society,” Marx underlined.
The chairman of the Protestant German Church, Bishop Heinrich Strohm said he was “aghast at this atrocity”. He called on all Germans to oppose anti-Semitism and especially reminded Christians that anti-Semitism was blasphemy.
In a message from Tabgha in Israel, where he is with a group of teachers at the moment, Bishop Stefan Hesse of Hamburg called for greater police protection of Jewish communities in Germany.
In a long interview in katholisch.de, the German church’s official website, Bishop Ulrich Neymeyr of Erfurt, who is responsible for relations with Judaism in the German bishops’ conference, said he was not only deeply shocked by what had happened but also by the growing evidence that the perpetrator was a Holocaust denier who had planned a massacre in the synagogue on the most important Jewish feast day of the year.
“And that in Germany. Absolutely mind-boggling. My thoughts and prayers are with those in the synagogue and their families,” said Neymeyr. “As long as Jews still have to fear anti-Semitism and attacks on synagogues, there is something very, very wrong in Germany”, he emphasised. “I had hoped that we’d progressed further as far as ‘Never again’ is concerned but anti-Semitism is once again showing its ugly face and doing so with downright self-confidence. We must not let ‘Never again!’ become a mere hackneyed phrase.”
It was more important than ever for Germans to condemn anti-Semitism clearly in public and in the internet, said Neymeyr. Germany had obviously not yet fully come to terms with the Nazi dictatorship and its consequences, especially with neo-Nazism. The German Democratic Republic, had denied that there were neo-Nazis in former eastern Germany, he recalled but that was not the case. There had of course been neo-Nazis in the DDR but the communist government had denied their existence. It was essential to investigate what consequences this had on the situation in eastern Germany today, said Neymeyr.
It has since come to light that the 27-year-old single perpetrator Stephan Balliet, a German Neonazi, had meticulously planned a massacre in the synagogue but had failed to shoot his way through the synagogue door.
The bishops of Sachsen-Anhalt, the province in which Halle lies, have asked the population to form a chain of lights around the Halle synagogue this evening, when the Jewish community will be celebrating the Sabbath in the synagogue. “We want to show our solidarity and closeness to our Jewish brothers and sisters by forming a protective human chain around the synagogue while they celebrate the Sabbath,” said the Catholic Bishop of Magdeburg, Gerhard Feige and the Protestant Bishop Friedrich Krämer. An attack on the synagogue was also an attack on the churches, they said. “Ducking away or just walking off when extremists attack synagogues and religious freedom must never again be allowed to occur in Germany”.