This morning, the small Jewish community in the city of Halle, in eastern Germany, assembled for the holiest day of the Jewish year: Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. While 70 people were following the services, two armed men drove up outside the synagogue with firearms.
Judging from the information available so far, it seems the armed men tried to enter the synagogue with the intention of killing as many members of the congregation as possible. Thankfully, the policemen and security guards posted outside the temple’s gates managed to repel them. At least two people were killed and another two severely injured in the brutal attack, but under the circumstances, that might count as a particularly bitter instance of what Germans call Glück im Unglück: a small mercy amid horror.
Although the police arrested a suspect—according to early reports, a white German—it is as yet unknown what the attackers’ motivations were. But since the fall of the Berlin Wall, East Germany has had a highly active, and frequently violent, neo-Nazi scene. From 2000 to 2007, an especially deadly terrorist cell called the National Socialist Underground (NSU) killed several immigrants and a policewoman before being apprehended. A few months ago, a conservative politician was murdered by a far-right assassin as a kind of revenge for the politician’s role in helping refugees settle in the country.