A man has been put on trial in the German city of Magdeburg for a deadly shooting targeting Jews in the eastern city of Halle last year, one of the worst acts of anti-Semitic violence in Germany’s post-war history.
The 28-year-old German national – identified under the country’s strict privacy laws as Stephan B – is accused of shooting two people dead in October after he tried and failed to storm a synagogue.
He has been charged with two counts of murder and 68 counts of attempted murder. The proceedings are scheduled to end on October 14. If convicted, Stephan B could face life in prison.
Prosecutors say Stephan B used explosives and firearms to try to gain access to the synagogue, where 52 worshippers were celebrating Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar.
After failing to break through the synagogue’s locked wooden door, he shot dead a female passer-by and a man in a nearby kebab shop. He filmed the assault and live-streamed it on the internet.
Prosecutors said Stephan B made a “very comprehensive” confession, confirming “far-right and anti-Semitic motives”.
Stephan B also published documents online that called for the killing of all Jews. His video of the attack will be shown in court. Stephan B faces an additional charge of incitement of hatred for denying the Holocaust in the footage.
According to a report in Der Spiegel magazine, a psychological assessment of Stephan B concluded that he has a complex personality disorder with elements of autism.
However, he was deemed to be aware of his actions and not exempt from criminal responsibility, the report said.
Stephan B “described the fatal shots fired at his two victims in Halle without emotion” and appeared disappointed that he had failed in his attempt to enter the synagogue, psychiatrist Norbert Leygraf was cited as saying.
The synagogue’s heavy wooden door still bears the bullet holes from the assault and will soon be removed and used for a communal art project.