Attacker of German synagogue recaptured after escaping prison

Gunman accused of attacking Halle synagogue during Yom Kippur recaptured by German authorities after attempting a prison escape.

Elad Benari ,

Stephan Balliet, gunman from Halle shooting
Stephan Balliet, gunman from Halle shooting

The gunman accused of attacking a synagogue in Halle, Germany, during Yom Kippur services in late 2019, was recaptured by German authorities after attempting a prison escape, JTA reported Thursday.

Stephan Balliet climbed an 11-foot fence during a walk through a prison courtyard on Saturday, but was caught shortly thereafter and taken back into custody. By Wednesday he had been transferred to a maximum security prison.

“I’m really speechless,” Max Privorozki, the chairman of the Jewish Community in Halle, told the Jüdische Allgemeine. “For me, what happened yesterday was very evil and an unexpected surprise. It’s probably not surprising that the attacker would attempt to flee, but the fact that he would have been able to, that’s the problem.”

Anne-Marie Keding, the minister of justice in the state of Saxony-Anhalt, called the incident “horrible” in an interview with Deutschen Presse-Agentur, adding, “There must be consequences.”

Around 50 people were in the Halle synagogue during Yom Kippur services last October when the assailant had tried to shoot his way into the building.

When he was unable to do so, he murdered two people believed to be chosen at random – a woman he shot as she was walking by and an employee of a kebab shop to which drove moments later.

In late April, Balliet was charged with murder and attempted murder, among other offenses. His trial is expected to start this summer.

Anti-Semitic crimes have been on the rise in Germany in recent years. Recently released figures found that police registered 2,032 anti-Semitic crimes, including two killings, in 2019.

The total is up 13% from 2018 and the highest number of anti-Semitic crimes nationwide since 2001.