German verdict due in worst anti-Semitic rampage since WWII
Published: Dec 21, 2020 08:38 PM
A German court is to hand down its verdict Monday on a deadly far-right attack in Halle in 2019 that nearly became the country's worst anti-Semitic atrocity since World War II.

Evacuations and transport disruptions in Frankfurt due to unexploded WWII bomb December 6. Photo: VCG

A bolted door at the eastern city's synagogue with 52 worshippers inside marking Yad Vashem, the holiest day of the Jewish year, was the only thing that prevented a heavily armed assailant from carrying out a planned bloodbath, prosecutors say.

After failing to storm the temple on October 9, 2019, the attacker shot dead a female passer-by and a man at a kebab shop instead.

During his five-month trial, far-right defendant Stephan Balliet, 28, has denied the Holocaust in open court - a crime in Germany - and expressed no remorse to those targeted, many of whom are co-plaintiffs in the case.

"The attack on the synagogue in Halle was one of the most repulsive anti-Semitic acts since World War II," prosecutor Kai Lohse told the court in the nearby eastern city of Magdeburg as the trial wrapped up.

The prosecution has demanded life in prison for Balliet. His defense team has asked presiding judge Ursula Mertens only for a "fair sentence."

Lohse said Balliet had acted on the basis of a "racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic ideology" to carry out an attack against not only those he killed but "Jewish life in Germany as a whole."

The events that unfolded were like a "nightmare," he added.

"At the end of this nightmare, the perpetrator murdered two people and injured and traumatized numerous others."

During the trial, Balliet insisted that "attacking the synagogue was not a mistake, they are my enemies."

Dressed in military garb, he filmed the attack and broadcast it on the internet, prefacing it with a manifesto espousing his misogynist, neo-fascist ideology.

The attack bore some of the hallmarks of two carried out and similarly live-streamed some months earlier in Christchurch, New Zealand by Brenton Tarrant, who killed 51 people. Balliet cited Tarrant as an inspiration.

He has been charged with two counts of murder and multiple counts of attempted murder in a case that has deeply rattled the country and fuelled fears about rising right-wing extremism and anti-Jewish violence, 75 years after the end of the Nazi era.
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