Halle, Germany: Police say local Jews requested no additional protection for Yom Kippur

'This man could've been disarmed before he could attack others,' head of Germany's Central Council of Jews says.

Toby Axelrod, JTA ,

Police officers at site of shooting in Halle, Germany
Police officers at site of shooting in Halle, Germany

Police officials in the German city of Halle say that the Jewish community had not sought additional protection last Yom Kippur, the Jewish holiday when a gunman sought unsuccessfully to enter a local synagogue.

Halle Police Chief Annett Wernicke and several colleagues told an inquiry committee in the Magdeburg state parliament on Wednesday that the local Jewish community had not made any special request for security on that day.

Police have admitted that they were unaware that Oct. 9 was Yom Kippur last year, but they also said the Jewish community had not shared a list of important dates with them and that as a result they had not deployed addition security personnel.

In the wake of the attack, in which a gunman killed two people after failing to penetrate the synagogue’s newly-fortified doors, Jewish officials criticized the police for failing to adequately protect the site.

Halle’s Jewish community president, Max Privorozki, told the German media that he had tried to get more protection for Jewish institutions in the state of Saxony-Anhalt but was always told “everything is calm, everything is fine.”

Josef Schuster, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said the police failing was “scandalous.”

“This man could have been disarmed before he had a chance to carry out the attack,” Schuster told Deutschlandfunk public radio the day after the tragic incident.

The head of police inspection in Halle, Mario Schwan, in charge of overseeing security for religious institutions, said there had been “not a single suggestion of danger on the Yom Kippur holiday.” The person in charge on Oct. 9, Christian Baust, said he had not been aware of the significance of the date.

Sigmount Koenigsberg, the commissioner on anti-Semitism for Berlin’s Jewish community, said in a Facebook post this week that the police should have been aware of the possible danger.

“Everyone says ‘there were no indications’ after a terror attack,” he said. “But security authorities must have known that Jewish establishments are always targeted. At least since the terror attack on the Israeli Olympic team in 1972.”

The accused gunman is due to stand trial in July on two murder charges and 68 counts of attempted murder motivated by hatred of Jews and others.