Senior German officials headed to the scene of an attack on a synagogue in the city of Halle Thursday, seeking to reassure an unsettled Jewish community after some of its members saw a man trying to break into their house of worship on Judaism's holiest day.
The attack, in which two people were killed outside the synagogue and in a kebab shop, stoked renewed concern about rising far-right extremism and questions about the police response.
The head of Germany's Jewish community, Josef Schuster, called the absence of police guards outside the synagogue on Yom Kippur "scandalous" as members of the congregation described waiting behind locked doors for the police to arrive, which took more than 10 minutes. The assailant, a German citizen identified by prosecutors as Stephan B., firing what appeared to be homemade weapons, tried and failed to force his way into the synagogue while around 80 people were inside, then shot and killed a woman in the street outside and a man at a nearby kebab shop. The attack, where the gunman is seen ranting about Jews and denying the Holocaust in English, was live-streamed on a popular gaming site.
Synagogues are often protected by police in Germany and have been for many years amid concerns over far-right terrorism. There has been rising concern lately about both anti-Semitism and right-wing extremism. Germany's domestic intelligence agency has said that the number of anti-Semitic acts of violence rose to 48 last year from 21 the previous year. It also said that the number of far-right extremists rose by 100 to 24,100 people last year, with more than half of them considered potentially violent.