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World 'We were ready to fight': Hero Jewish worshipers - including 10 Americans - reveal how they barricaded themselves inside German synagogue during gun attack as US rabbi describes hiding in a safe room

21:20  10 october  2019
21:20  10 october  2019 Source:   dailymail.co.uk

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Hero Jewish worshipers barricaded themselves in a synagogue prayer room with chairs and ' were ready to fight ' as a neo-Nazi attacker tried to break in Around 50 terrified men, women and children - including 10 Americans - were trapped inside the synagogue in Halle during the attack yesterday

' We were ready to fight ': Hero Jewish worshipers - including A man and a woman were shot dead in an attack on a synagogue in Halle, central Germany, on Wednesday, while several Jewish leaders say the attacker tried to get into the synagogue in Halle during prayers for Yom Kippur, but

Hero Jewish worshipers barricaded themselves in a synagogue prayer room with chairs and 'were ready to fight' as a neo-Nazi attacker tried to break in during a killing rampage that left two dead.

Around 50 terrified men, women and children - including 10 Americans - were trapped inside the synagogue in Halle during the attack yesterday, which they watched unfold on security cameras that broadcast to TV screens inside the prayer house.

The 'heavily armed' gunman was seen wearing a steel helmet and army clothing, as he went on a murderous rampage, shooting two people dead and seriously injuring two others.

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  Shooting Kills 2 in Anti-Semitic Attack on German Synagogue BERLIN — The police locked down the center of the eastern German city of Halle on Wednesday, warning citizens to stay at home while they searched for attackers who fatally shot at least two people in broad daylight and tried to breach a guarded synagogue during services for Yom Kippur, the holiest day in Judaism. At least two, possibly three, gunmen opened fire near the synagogue, federal prosecutors said, and the interior minister, Horst Seehofer, said at least one heavily armed attacker had “tried to force his way into a synagogue where some 80 people were inside.

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Rebecca Blady, a Jewish American community leader and rabbi, who was in the synagogue, said: 'We've made it out with our lives, in health and amazing spirits.'

The anti-Semitic gunman failed to massacre worshipers inside the synagogue on Yom Kippur, as he could not get through the solid wooden doors of the building.

Instead, he shot through the doors, threw explosives and then lay bombs outside the building.

The shooter then went through the streets of the central German city, blasting a female passer-by before driving around the corner to a kebab shop where he shot another man dead, then fired several shots into the street.

Roman R said he was in the middle of Yom Kippur prayers when he heard a bang and went into the corridor to see smoke coming into the building.

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The 31-year-old told Bild: 'We barricaded the door to the prayer room with chairs. We were ready to fight. '

Blady, a visiting rabbi in Berlin for a Jewish charity event with her husband, Jeremy Borovitz, had been invited with other guests to spend Yom Kippur in Halle.

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After the holiday she posted on Facebook about the attack, writing on Facebook that the terrorist was 'right outside the walls of the synagogue we were praying in'.

She said: 'It's the end of Yom Kippur in Halle, Germany. We've made it out with our lives, in health, and amazing spirits - with gratitude to Gd - as today there was a large scale terrorist attack in Halle, and the terrorist began his day right outside the walls of the synagogue we were praying in.

'For whatever reason, the man with the gun was stalled or prohibited from entering the synagogue. Gd counted us all there today, one by one, as deserving of life.'

a woman smiling for the camera: Rebecca Blady described how a loud bang was heard outside the synagogue as around 50 worshipers barricaded themselves inside© Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Rebecca Blady described how a loud bang was heard outside the synagogue as around 50 worshipers barricaded themselves inside

Blady described how the scared worshipers heard a loud bang outside but she did not realize what was going until they were escorted out of the building by police.

She added: 'Our group from Berlin was meant to experience the day with some extra intention, joy, and conversation along the way. We had incredible prayers, full of beautiful songs and even dance, until we suddenly heard a loud bang outside.

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'We hardly had any information about what was going on, but we shuttled ourselves upstairs and into safe rooms. Eventually we learned that a man with a rifle had tried to get into the synagogue.

'He struggled with a passerby. The passerby was killed. Several hours later, with the threat of the gunman still at large, police units escorted us out of the synagogue and to a local hospital to check for signs of shock and trauma.

'We are still here, trying to make sense of what happened and what is going on. Please know that we are safe. I'm so grateful for all the calls and messages and most of all for the support of this community and the anchor that our group has provided.'

The rampage was streamed live for 35 minutes on Twitch, and eventually seen by some 2,200 people, the online platform said.

Police captured a suspect after a gun battle that left the man injured, though they have refused to say whether the man they captured is the same one seen online in anti-Semitic videos.

Max Privorotzki, chairman of the Jewish Community in Halle, added:  'We saw through the camera of our synagogue that a heavily armed offender with a steel helmet and rifle tried to shoot open our doors.'

It was later revealed that Stephan Balliet, a loner who lived with his mother, posted a manifesto online a week ago where he specifically talks about attacking the synagogue in Halle while outlining his plan to kill 'anti-whites', including Jews.

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The 27-year-old spent hours online and was a user of Twitch - a live-streaming service popular with video gamers - where he shared footage his rampage on Wednesday in chilling echoes of the Christchurch mosque attack in New Zealand.

The majority of those inside - including the elderly and children - went to find shelter while Roman and five other men barricaded the door to the prayer room, called police, and then prepared themselves to fight back.

He described watching as Balliet shot at the wooden doors, believing they would give way any moment and that he would come inside and attack them.

Fortunately, the doors held, explosives that Balliet placed at the doors did not go off, and flammable liquid he sprayed at the building failed to light.

After failing to get into the synagogue, Roman watched as Balliet left to continue his attack elsewhere as police arrived. He remained trapped inside the building for hours afterward before finally being freed once officers had disarmed the explosives. Afterwards, worshipers were pictured hugging and laughing as they were led away.

Jewish community leader Max Privorotzki, who was in the Halle synagogue, told the Stuttgarter Zeitung of the harrowing minutes as the site came under assault.

'We saw through the camera of our synagogue that a heavily armed perpetrator wearing a steel helmet and rifle was trying to shoot open our door.'

Between 70 and 80 people were in the synagogue then, Privorotzki said.

'We barricaded our doors from inside and waited for the police,' he said, adding that 'in between, we carried on with our service.'

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Balliet's father, who was not named, told Bild that his son was an angry young man who 'was not at peace with himself or with the world, and always blamed everyone else' for his problems.

In the wake of the attack, Jewish community leaders criticized German authorities for failing to do enough to combat rising anti-Semitism, while demanding round-the-clock security for Jewish sites in the country.

'The fact that, 75 years after the Holocaust, such groups are gaining influence in Germany speaks volumes,' Ronald Lauder, head of the World Jewish Congress, said.

Balliet was not a known extremist, Bild reported, and appears to have self-radicalized while living alone with his mother in Heldbra, a village around 25 miles from Halle, and spending lots of his time online.

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He was born in Eisleben, another village close to Heldbra and lived with both of his parents until they divorced when he was 14 years old .

After that he went to live with his mother in Heldbra, which is where he was staying at the time of the attack, although he routinely saw his father who lives in Benndorf, about a five-minute drive away.

The father said he last saw his son on Tuesday, around 24 hours before the attack, when he was confrontational.

'There was always a fight, my opinion did not count,' he said. 'I couldn't reach him any more.'

While the man didn't reveal details of his final conversations with his Balliet, when asked whether he thought about his son after reports spread of an attack on a synagogue, he stayed silent and began weeping.

Shooter posts video on Amazon-owned Twitch

Social media firms faced anger and calls to 'step up' last after graphic footage of the anti-Semitic gun rampage in Germany was streamed live on Twitch and watched by thousands of people.

The 35-minute video was streamed live on Twitch, an Amazon-owned gaming site, and stayed there for another 30 minutes after the broadcast had finished before it was finally taken down.

In that time more than 2,000 people viewed the footage and some of them distributed it further via other social media networks.

a close up of a sign: The 35-minute video was streamed live on Twitch (file photo), an Amazon-owned gaming site, and stayed there for another 30 minutes after the broadcast had finished© Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited The 35-minute video was streamed live on Twitch (file photo), an Amazon-owned gaming site, and stayed there for another 30 minutes after the broadcast had finished

The shooter had created his Twitch account two months before Wednesday's Yom Kippur violence.

Last night there were calls for social media sites to take action to stop their platforms being used for violence.

'Amazon is just as much to blame as Twitch for allowing this stream online,' said Hans-Jakob Schindler of the Counter Extremism Project.

'Online platforms need to step up and stop their services being used and in turn, parent companies need to hold them accountable.

'This tragic incident demonstrates one more time that a self-regulatory approach is not effective enough and sadly highlights the need for stronger regulation of the tech sector.'

'We are shocked and saddened by the tragedy that took place in Germany, and our deepest condolences go out to all those affected,' a Twitch spokesman said.

'Twitch has a zero-tolerance policy against hateful conduct, and any act of violence is taken extremely seriously.

'We worked with urgency to remove this content and will permanently suspend any accounts found to be posting or reposting content of this abhorrent act.

'Once the video was removed, we shared the hash with an industry consortium to help prevent the proliferation of this content.

'We take this extremely seriously and are committed to working with industry peers, law enforcement, and any relevant parties to protect our community.'

Records seen by Bilt reveal that Balliet graduated from high school and went on to study chemistry for two semesters at a higher education institution, but had to abandon his studies after a serious stomach operation.

It is not clear exactly what he did for work after quitting his studies, though a neighbor said he was working as a broadcasting technician at the time of the attack.

Video taken of Balliet during the rampage suggests he was at least familiar with combat tactics, even if he had no formal training, as he can be seen taking shelter while firing his weapons and moving around as a soldier might.

In footage that he streamed online, Balliet also claims he built his weapons himself, suggesting a familiarity with mechanical engineering, though he can also be heard lamenting the fact that his guns keep jamming.

In a manifesto that was posted online as a PDF document, the author included pictures of the weapons and ammunition used in the attack, according to extremism monitoring service SITE.

The manifesto also mentioned a live-stream as well as his objective to kill 'anti-whites', including Jews.

'This manifesto document, which appears to have been created a week ago on October 1, gives yet more indication how much planning and preparation' the gunman put into the attack, Rita Katz, director of SITE, said.

German newspaper Die Welt reported that the text, which is about 10 pages long and written in English, specifically mentions the plan to attack the synagogue in Halle during Yom Kippur.

The rampage was streamed live for 35 minutes on Twitch, and eventually seen by some 2,200 people, the online platform said.

Police subsequently captured a suspect after a gun battle that left the man injured, though they have refused to say whether the man they captured is the same one seen online.

It is thought that Balliet tried and failed to get into the Halle synagogue where around 80 people were praying, before shooting through the doors, throwing explosives, and then laying bombs outside.

He then gunned down a woman in the street before driving around the corner to a kebab shop where he again opened fire, killing a man and wounding several others.

Video taken outside the shop shows a man wearing tactical gear and a helmet with a camera strapped to it climbing out of a car and firing several shots into the street with what appears to be an improvised shotgun.

He then walks up and down the road in full view of security cameras before fleeing in the direction of Wiedersdorf.

After arriving in that village he shot an electrician in a workshop, then stole a taxi and made his way on to the A9 motorway, skirting around the city of Leipzig, before turning on to the B91 towards Zeitz.

It was there that he was confronted by police and arrested after a brief gun battle, Bild reports.

Chancellor Angela Merkel joined a solidarity vigil at Berlin's main synagogue on Wednesday, and firmly condemned the anti-Semitic rampage.

But Jewish leaders said that words were not enough, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu joining calls for German authorities to 'act resolutely against the phenomenon of anti-Semitism'.

The head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany ripped into the authorities for failing to provide adequate security on such a key day.

'It is scandalous that the synagogue in Halle is not protected by police on a holiday like Yom Kippur,' said Josef Schuster. 'This negligence has now been bitterly repaid.'

Ronald Lauder, who heads the World Jewish Congress, also stressed: 'We need action not words' as he called for round the clock security for Jewish sites.

'We also need immediately to launch a unified front against neo-Nazi and other extremist groups, which threaten our well-being.

'The fact that, 75 years after the Holocaust, such groups are gaining influence in Germany speaks volumes.'

In a copy of a 35-minute video obtained by AFP the gunman filmed himself launching into a diatribe against women and Jews, before carrying out the attack.

The video's authenticity has been confirmed by the SITE monitoring group but not by police.

The gunman also published an anti-Semitic 'manifesto' online more than a week ago, according to SITE director Rita Katz, who said the document showed pictures of the weapons and ammunition he used.

In the video, he was seen trying to force open the synagogue door before shooting dead a female passer-by. He then tried unsuccessfully to blast open the gate of the Jewish cemetery with explosives.

The man was later seen shooting at a patron of a kebab shop about 600 meters (yards) away from the synagogue.

Yom Kippur - Judaism's holiest day

Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, is the holiest day in Judaism which is marked with an intensive 25-hour period of fasting and prayer.

The holiday began Tuesday night and was due to end late Wednesday. The day typically involves five prayer sessions, with followers encouraged to repent for sins.

It is celebrated throughout the Jewish world, even by typically secular members of the faith.

The owner of the kebab shop, Rifat Tekin, meanwhile described the gunman as 'calm like a professional'.

'Maybe he has done this many times. Like me making a kebab, he's doing this - like a professional.'

Anti-terrorist prosecutors confirmed that they were taking over the probe given 'the particular importance of the case' which involved 'violent acts that affect the domestic security of the Federal Republic of Germany'.

Wednesday's shootings came three months after the shocking assassination-style murder of local pro-migrant politician Walter Luebcke in the western city of Kassel, allegedly by a known neo-Nazi.

Luebcke's killing has deeply shaken Germany, raising questions about whether it has failed to take seriously a rising threat from right-wing extremists.

Investigators have been probing the extent of suspect Stephan Ernst's neo-Nazi ties and whether he had links to the far-right militant cell National Socialist Underground (NSU).

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer last month warned of the rising danger of the militant far right, calling it 'as big a threat as radical Islamism'.

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