A German court on Monday handed down a life sentence to the assailant behind a deadly far-right attack last year that nearly became the country’s worst anti-Semitic atrocity since World War II.
A bolted door at the synagogue in the eastern city of Halle with 52 worshippers inside marking Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year, was the only thing that prevented the heavily armed attacker from carrying out a planned bloodbath.
After failing to storm the temple on October 9, 2019, Stephan Balliet, 28, shot dead a female passer-by and a man at a kebab shop.
During his five-month trial, Balliet denied the Holocaust in open court – a crime in Germany – and expressed no remorse to those targeted, many of whom were co-plaintiffs in the case.
“The attack on the synagogue in Halle was one of the most repulsive anti-Semitic acts since World War II,” prosecutor Kai Lohse told the court in the nearby city of Magdeburg as the trial wrapped up.
The prosecution had demanded a life sentence for Balliet. The defence team asked presiding judge Ursula Mertens only for a “fair sentence”.
A lawyer for nine of the co-plaintiffs, Mark Lupschitz, told AFP early Monday the trial had been “fair” and called the proceedings both “stressful and empowering” for the intended victims.
During the trial, Balliet insisted that “attacking the synagogue was not a mistake, they are my enemies”.
Dressed in military garb, he filmed the attack and broadcast it on the internet, prefacing it with a manifesto espousing his misogynist, neo-fascist ideology.
Israel’s ambassador to Germany, Jeremy Issacharoff, called the attack “a very, very alarming moment in German history”.
“If that guy would have been able to get into a synagogue… it would have had a tremendous impact on German identity after the war and the fight against anti-Semitism,” he told AFP in an interview.