KARLSRUHE, Germany — The man who attempted to carry out a massacre at a synagogue in the German city of Halle earlier this week has confessed to the crime and admitted having a right-wing extremist and anti-Semitic motive, prosecutors told dpa on Friday.
The 27-year-old, who has been named only as Stephan B under German privacy laws, made the confession during a hearing lasting several hours with an investigative judge at Germany’s Federal Court of Justice.
Stephan B tried and failed to storm the Jewish place of worship in the eastern city Wednesday. Fifty-one people were in the synagogue celebrating Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar.
He then killed a 40-year-old woman in front of the synagogue and a 20-year-old man in a nearby kebab shop. Two other people — a couple — were shot and remained hospitalized Friday after undergoing surgery, a hospital spokesman said.
The incident is being treated as a right-wing extremist terrorist attack. Stephan B was charged with two murders and seven attempted murders. Investigators believe he wanted to commit a massacre and instigate others to carry out similar attacks.
Stephan B’s lawyer, Hans-Dieter Weber, told broadcaster Suedwestrundfunk, that “it wouldn’t make sense to deny it (the attack), and he didn’t.”
He added that his client was intelligent and eloquent but socially isolated and that he tended to blame others for his own problems.
The shooting has taken on a political dimension in Germany, with leaders proposing various measures to prevent such an attack happening again.
German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who also heads Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, or CDU, party, called for stronger security laws and an extensive review of the security for Jewish institutions in Germany.
Interior Minister Horst Seehofer wants to speed up an already planned reform to fight right-wing extremism, while Family Affairs Minister Franziska Giffey announced that she wants to increase the resources for work against anti-Semitism.
Some mainstream politicians have linked the increase in right-wing extremist violence in the country and the rise in popularity of the far-right Alternative for Germany, or AfD, party, which is currently the third-biggest party in parliament.
The government’s anti-Semitism commissioner, Felix Klein, accused the AfD of fueling hate against Jews, telling the broadcaster ZDF that the party has “many anti-Semitic positions.”
But AfD leader Joerg Meuthen accused other politicians of instrumentalizing the attack for political reasons. He also slammed the security authorities for “failing.”
Stephan B had four guns and several explosive devices with him during the attempt to attack the synagogue.
A spokesman for the Defense Ministry said Friday that he had done his mandatory military service in 2010 and 2011 and had therefore undergone combat training.
Investigators found a 3D printer at the suspect’s home, underpinning the suspicion that he made his own weapons. They also seized a hard drive, sources said.
Stephan B filmed his attack with a helmet camera and livestreamed it on the internet. He also wrote an 11-page “manifesto” that in some parts reads like the instructions for a computer game and abounds with anti-Semitic terms.
Experts said the hate messages do not indicate a complex ideological foundation. Instead, there are stronger references to the gaming subculture, for instance to the game “Counter-Strike — Global Offensive.”
The Federal Criminal Police Office released a statement saying that its investigation — run by a team of 150 people — was focusing on whether anyone had been aware of Stephan B’s plan to attack a synagogue and whether there may have been accomplices.
Former domestic intelligence head Hans-Georg Maassen said he sees a newer form of right-wing terrorism in the attack.
“We are not dealing with the standard Nazi here,” Maassen told the broadcaster Welt. “To say after such an attack that we have to do more against right-wing extremism, against right-wing terrorism, falls short.”
The Halle attack was the latest example of “an extremely disturbing rise in violence directed at Jews” in many places, the U.N. Human Rights Office said, warning also of a “cross-fertilization” among various forms of violent extremism online and on social media.
“No society can consider itself immune from this form of viral hatred,” U.N. rights spokesman Rupert Colville said in Geneva.
People in Halle continued to mourn the victims of the attack Friday, with more and more flowers and candles being placed on the city’s market square, outside the synagogue in the Paulus district and in front of the kebab shop.
In the afternoon, several hundred people gathered in the market square of Halle for a minute’s silence to remember the victims. Police said 600 people took part.
A mayoral election rally had been due to take place in the square on Sunday, but it will be replaced by a ceremony held by a group called “Halle against the Right — Alliance for Civil Courage.”
An ecumenical church service will be held in the city Monday to honor the victims.
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