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The Jewish congregation in Halle narrowly avoided a bloodbath through a German Nazi shooting spree



Fritz Burschel,

Halle, 10. Oktober 2019: Tür der Synagoge
Es war nicht die Polizei, die ein Eindringen des Täters in die Synagoge verhinderte: Die Tür des Gebetshauses, die den Schüssen und Sprengsätzen standgehalten hatte, wurde von Gemeindemitgliedern verbarrikadiert. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

That the attack on the synagogue failed was not thanks to the police: the doors of this house of prayer, which withstood the gunshots and explosions from the 27-year-old attacker, were barricaded by members of the congregation. Over 60 of them had gathered here to celebrate the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. A passer-by, who approached the man in front of the synagogue, was executed in cold blood without hesitation with four shots from his self-built gun.

Afterwards, the assassin moved on to the next target of his hate: a kebab shop nearby, where he cornered a man trying to hide behind a refrigerator. He executed him in cold blood as well, only to return a little bit later and fire a second round into the dead body.

We know all of this so precisely because the attacker wore a helmet camera, with which he recorded his attack and streamed it live on the Internet where the video briefly went viral. At the outset of the recording, viewers could hear him say: “Feminism is the cause of declining birth-rates in the West, which acts as a scapegoat for mass immigration, and the root of all these problems is the Jew.”

He summed up his murderous motivations in a three-part manifesto written in English that can be found on relevant websites around the Internet. Beneath the illustrated depiction of his six homemade weapons (and one longsword), he declared: “I originally planned to storm a mosque or an antifa ‘culture’ center, which are way less defended, but even killing 100 golems won’t make a difference, when on a single day more than that are shipped to Europe. The only way to win is to cut of [sic!] the head of ZOG [Zionist Occupied Government] … If I fail and die but kill a single jew, it was worth it. After all, if every White Man kills just one, we win.”

Friedrich Burschel works as a Senior Advisor for Neo-Nazism and Structures/Ideologies of Discrimination at the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung.

What sounds like unrestrained insanity, however, corresponds to the fanatical worldview of a Fascist International that sees the day of judgement, of uprising, the outbreak of the race war, the ominous Day X approaching. We can draw connections between the attacker, Stephan B. from the area around the town of Eisleben, and the Norwegian mass murder Anders Breivik and his murderous hatred of “Cultural Marxism” (July 2011) as well as the mass murder in Christchurch, New Zealand, who livestreamed his massacre of 51 Muslims in March 2019 and whose manifesto was titled “The Great Replacement”, or killers like the one in El Paso (August 2019) whose anti-Latinx racism took the lives of 22 people, and Dayton, where brutal misogyny was one of the motivations behind the deed, and, not least, the “National Socialist Underground” (NSU) in Germany.

In her analysis of the attack in Halle written hours after the murders, Veronika Kracher identified the internet as a space where these mass murders are connected to a right-wing, misanthropic online gaming milieu, functioning as the breeding ground for the “gamification of terror” – a transformation of real terror into a game. Kracher looks at the attacker’s manifesto more closely: “It is accompanied by a list of achievements, like in a video game. It is precisely the same kind of way that achievements are named in video games: the title of the achievement and what has to be done for it, in this case: how and who to murder. Gamification of terror. It ends in a call to become a ‘techno-barbarian’, to ‘dedomesticate yourself’ and kill all Jews.”

The ideological puzzle pieces of anti-Semitism, racism, misogyny, and a diffuse anti-Left ideology which converge into a paranoid threat scenario here bring forth a toxic conspiracy ideology which has also been one of the common leitmotifs of the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) and other ethno-nationalists in Germany, Europe, and around the world, namely that of “population transfer”. The intensification of social contradictions and the everyday verbal attacks on migrants, women, Jews, and leftists has drastically worsened the climate in the country and will increasingly translate into deadly attacks in the coming period.

Like the attacker in Halle, not least leading AfD politicians continue to repeat these tropes, of this Volkstod (death of the people) or “population transfer”. In his speech at the annual meeting of the AfD’s furthest-right wing last year, AfD leader and parliamentary speaker Alexander Gauland declared: “The federal government wants us to work for the immigrants, so that they can comfortably bring children into the world and complete the population transfer.” Thuringian parliamentary leader and representative of the AfD’s far-right fringe, Björn Höcke, also speaks of the “approaching Volkstod through population transfer” in his book of interviews, Nie zweimal in denselben Fluss.

But Höcke’s book does not leave it at agitating for the struggle against the alleged Volkstod in an openly fascist tone. He makes it clear that the exclusion of parts of the population from the Volk he pursues does not only include migrants. Instead, he also calls for restrictive measures in relation to people of “pure” German ancestry. Allegedly citing Hegel, he writes that “mortified limbs cannot be cured with lavender water”. In the case of a system change, we would “unfortunately lose a few parts of the Volk … who are too weak or not willing” to fight back “against Africanization and Islamization”.

As becomes clear not only in his book, the Volkstod rhetoric is the most harmless of his whispering. As one can read, he dreams of seizing power and mass arrests and much worse. Höcke does not disguise his views by any means, anyone can read it: “German absoluteness will be the guarantee that we will confront the matter thoroughly and fundamentally. When the time for change finally comes, we Germans will do nothing by halves.”

Or when AfD politician André Wendt, vice-president of the Saxon parliament, and AfD state chairman Jörg Urban attend a Pegida demonstration on 7 October 2019 and listen excitedly to the rhetoric of Pegida founder and regular speaker Lutz Bachmann, who concludes with naked fantasies of mass murder: “And all the supporters of these enemies of the people, and those who continue to poison the bad side of the ditch with their indoctrination, they should go into the ditch. Then we can fill the ditch. We’ll throw them into the ditch, and fill it with dirt.”

Here lies the point of connection for the violence that killers like Stephan B. then convert into deeds. Through the constant repetition of these delusions by right-wing populists and authoritarian politicians, militant Nazis across the globe feel themselves called – to quote the NSU – to let “deeds follow words” and stop the alleged population transfer through racist murders, and scare people away from immigrating into “white” Western countries through terrorist attacks.

They know each other, network with each other, are aware of each other, and reference each other. The Christchurch attacker, for example, had spent time on Internet websites only several days before his deed which discussed armed, right-wing circles among the police and army in Germany, the so-called “Uniter Network”, where German officers prepared themselves for the ominous “Day X” upon which the civil war was expected to erupt.

And they seriously mean it. From the mastermind behind his desk, Alexander Gauland, to the fanatical attackers like the NSU, the murderer of the President of Regierungsbezirk Kassel Walter Lübcke (2 June 2019), the attacker in Christchurch, Pittsburgh (October 2018), Charleston (June 2015), Utøya (July 2011), Dayton and El Paso (2019), and now Halle. Whether the manifesto of the Christchurch killer or the attacker in El Paso, they all speak of the “Great Replacement” put forward by fascist French “philosopher” Renaud Camus and published in German by the Antaios publishing house run by ethno-nationalist pioneer Götz Kubitscheck. The attacker from Halle can also be understood in this way: it is not coincidence, but rather a fascist zeitgeist.

It is high time to stop speaking of “lone wolves”, to stop making empty promises at the graves of the victims and then acting surprised when another attack happens or members of the armed forces of this country prepare for Day X. No Minister of the Interior should be allowed to claim he has everything under control. That which calls itself “civil society” in this country must demand that people from vulnerable groups can live securely and without fear, and that the protection of their fellow civilians can be taken for granted. And it must demand that all levers of repression will be directed against the downplayed far-right formation and right-wing terror. The long overdue, fundamental debate in about an open and democratic society of the many in Germany can no longer be delayed.

What are we waiting for? What still has to happen?