Shooting Kills 2 Near German City Synagogue in Suspected Anti-Semitic Attack


BERLIN — The police locked down the center of the eastern German city of Halle on Wednesday, warning citizens to stay at home while they searched for attackers who fatally shot at least two people in broad daylight and apparently tried to breach a synagogue during services for Yom Kippur, the holiest day in Judaism.

At least two, possibly three, gunmen opened fire near the synagogue, federal prosecutors said. Germany’s foreign minister, Heiko Maas, deplored what was feared to have been a premeditated attack, saying, “We all must act against anti-Semitism in our country.”

Recent weeks have been punctuated by a number of small attacks on Jews in Germany, where anti-Semitism is an especially sensitive legacy of the Nazi era. Earlier this year, Germany’s top security official condemned a jump in the anti-Semitic attacks, ranging from vandalism to targeting individuals wearing visible emblems of their faith. After Wednesday’s shooting, police reinforcements were sent to synagogues across the country.

Police officials in Halle said the assailants had fled the scene in a vehicle. Video footage shown by local broadcaster MDR showed a gunman dressed in black and wearing a helmet, exiting the driver’s side of a compact car and opening fire in several directions.

One suspect was arrested shortly after the shooting started, but the police cordoned off the area around the synagogue and blocked major arteries in the city as they hunted for the others.

Federal police officials said they had increased patrols at the country’s eastern borders with Poland and Czech Republic, as well as regional airports and train stations as the search continued on Wednesday evening.

The identities of the victims were not immediately clear. Local media reported one victim, a man, had been killed in a kebab shop near the synagogue and that a woman had been fatally shot in the street.

Germany’s federal prosecutor took over the investigation “on suspicion of murder under special circumstance,” said Dirk Hackler, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office, but declined to give further details.

Prayers for Yom Kippur began at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday and had been scheduled to continue until 8:30 p.m. It is the most solemn day in the Jewish calendar, and services brought many people to the temple.

Max Privorozki, a leader of the Jewish community in Halle, told Der Spiegel that it appeared that the gunman or gunmen had tried to enter the synagogue, where 70 to 80 people were attending services, but that police officers posted outside the building had resisted the attackers.

“The attacker fired several times at the door and threw petrol bombs, firecrackers or other explosives to try to force his way in,” Mr. Privorozki was quoted by Der Spiegel as saying. “But the door stayed shut, God protected us.”

The police told MDR that more shots had been fired later in Landsberg, a suburb of Halle, though those reports could not be independently confirmed. The mayor of Halle convened a crisis team and urged residents to remain in their homes until further notice.

Immediately after the shooting in Halle, television footage showed police officers wearing helmets and carrying automatic weapons as they patrolled streets around the synagogue that had been sealed off with red-and-white tape. Other officers used a ladder to climb over a high brick wall surrounding the cemetery.