On Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year, a 27-year old neo-Nazi holocaust denier, Stephan Balliet, tried to attack a synagogue in Halle, Germany. They locked the door, and when he couldn’t break in, he shot a passerby and a restaurant customer before fleeing the scene. He is in police custody. Many of his weapons were home-made.
Only a strong locked door prevented a major terror attack with dozens killed. The Jewish community is still in shock, and questions have been raised on why there were no armed security, and why the police response was so slow. The attack was widely condemned, and Chancellor Angela Merkel visited the Berlin synagogue.
Max Privorozki, the chairman of the Jewish community in Halle said that it doesn’t matter to him whether it was a neo-Nazi, an extreme leftist or an Islamist. “What matters is that they do not fight it, or do not fight it enough,” he said. “The past four or five years I have felt that I am home, but now I can’t say this. I am not sure this is our home.”
This is the latest in a series of antisemitic attack against Jews in Europe. Some of them are neo-Nazis, others Islamists, but they all see Jews as the source of evil in the world. Only days before this attack, a 23-year old Syrian ran at a synagogue security personnel in Berlin with a knife.
In most cases these types of attacks are strongly condemned by the European authorities, but in many cases the European governments are criticized for not doing enough.
German police routinely guard synagogues in larger cities, but this was not the case in Halle. The synagogue in Halle had asked for security but was denied, as there were “no acute threats.” Some criticize why it took the police over ten minutes to arrive on the scene.
The European Jewish Congress in Brussels reports that 90% of Jews they have interviewed feel that antisemitism is on the rise in Europe, and over 80% of those being harassed in one way or the other do not report it to the police as they feel that it will not make a difference. Over a third avoid visiting Jewish events out of fear for their safety. In France, there was a 74% increase of antisemitic incidents in 2018, and the UK hit a record high in 2018 with over 100 incidents every month.
There is a growing worry concerning the lax attitude towards antisemitism in European governments. When it is addressed, it if often lumped together with all kinds of racism, and not addressed separately. Holocaust memorial days in the Netherlands have been used to speak of Islamophobia and condemnation of Israel.
Openly antisemitic views in political parties in Europe, as well as demands on bans of circumcision that has become more commonplace. There are law proposals still in process in Iceland and Denmark, and an increasing number of Swedish political parties supporting the ban. A local court in Cologne, Germany tried to ban circumcision in 2012. A court in Sweden overruled the deportation of a Palestinian asylum seeker in 2018, because he had fire bombed a synagogue and they feared Israeli retaliation if he was deported to the West Bank, thereby rewarding antisemitism with asylum.
If it was not for Israel, most Jews in Europe would not know where to go.