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12th Day of Trial Short Report: “We Won’t Forget Kevin and Jana.”

On September 15, 2020, the 12th day of the Halle trial, four survivors of the antisemitic and racist attack of October 9, 2019, and the father of the shot and killed Kevin S. testified.

Karsten L. outlined the life of his son Kevin S.: Since his birth, Kevin S. had been struggling with physical and mental issues, but had worked hard to become self-reliant. A major step forward was his apprenticeship as a painter, which he began in October 2019, just a few days before the attack: Kevin S. was annoyed that the working week only had five days, and he was thrilled by the work and the company, which he knew from several previous internships. It was of special importance to him to be able to finance his passion for soccer and the Hallesche FC. At HFC, Kevin found friends who accepted him like he was and who always stood by him. The soccer club meant everything to him. Kevin proudly sent his father pictures from matches when he could not attend them himself. Karsten L., Kevin and his mother had been very close despite the separation of the two parents many years ago. At just before 12 o’clock on the day of the attack, the three of them were on the phone. Shortly thereafter, Karsten L. could not reach Kevin anymore and began to worry. His parents tried to reach Kevin for hours, locating his cell phone and getting in touch with friends for about thirty times. “But nothing, nothing,” L. described in a voice choked with tears. Shortly after he had posted a missing person’s report online on Facebook, a friend sent him the video of the attack. He immediately recognized his son who was shot at close range in the video. Sobbing, L. recalled how he immediately called Kevin’s mother and informed her of the death of their son. Today, both are dependent on extensive professional psychological help.

The witness Karen E. spent October 9th in the synagogue of the Jewish community in Halle. Together with friends, the 60-year-old wanted to support the small community and therefore decided to visit the city for the first time for Yom Kippur. Looking back at the service today, despite the terrible events, she has a positive memory of the atmosphere during the prayer and the people she met. 

When she heard the first sounds of an explosion, she knew immediately that something was wrong. She belonged to a generation of American Jews who grew up among German and Polish Jews who fled to the USA to escape National Socialism and the Shoah. So she knew the history of the Shoah well: “Actually, these pictures were always in black and white. But here these pictures were in color.”

The police later treated the visitors of the synagogue like perpetrators. They had to identify themselves several times and their bags were checked, among other things in front of the media: “I actually felt like an object there,” said E. The social situation in Germany worried her greatly: Despite acting independently, the perpetrator was not alone: “He has been trained, motivated, cheered and supported by White Supremacy groups that are active not only in the USA, but also in Germany. If this networking is not taken seriously, the trial against the accused is actually meaningless.” According to E., it ought not be that a collective of artists and scientists recently showed that they found out much more about White Supremacy and the attack than the German Federal Criminal Police Office. The website https://halle.nsu-watch.info/ shows important connections, which were ignored by the authorities.

Ezra Waxman had also traveled to Halle especially for Yom Kippur: On the very evening of the crime, he had begun to take notes on the attack on the synagogue and the subsequent events, which he described in detail in court. He said that focusing on prayers, community and faith had given him strength during the horror and uncertainty in the synagogue, which had repeatedly been fuelled by rumors and insufficient information from the police. Under police sirens and helicopter noises, they prayed in the synagogue with special intensity. Later, he said, it was difficult to bring this positive religious experience and the deadly reality that had taken place outside at the same time together. “But no doubt, at that moment, that is what I had to do.”

The attack put him in a role he never wanted to take on: He had always tried to avoid the determination of his Jewish identity not through antisemitism, but through positive, creative elements of Jewish culture: For him, these include Jewish music, the wisdom of the Torah, and the Hebrew and Yiddish languages. But now that the antisemitic attack led him to voice his opinion, he wanted to use this voice to enrich the cultural life in Germany with even more color and Jewish culture. The core message of Judaism, which he wants to spread further, is the appreciation of the sanctuary of life. From the pastor of the family of the shot Jana L. he had learned the phrase “the miracle and the wound of Halle” and wanted to address it: Shortly after the attack, the events felt like a miracle because of their survival, even if this was already in stark contrast to the suffering caused. Today he would feel above all the pain of the wound of Halle. However, he had to think of his 96-year-old grandmother, who survived the Second World War and experienced much suffering. What she had learned from her suffering and confrontation with death was to appreciate life itself.

As the next witness, Rıfat Tekin described how he experienced the attack on the kebab restaurant where he worked at noon on October 9th: he had just prepared the first kebab of the day when he saw the accused in a fantasy uniform. After the first shot, he ducked under the counter and then escaped from the restaurant, when the accused turned to Kevin S. He said that his family and he were still suffering psychologically from the attack. It is important to his brother to continue running the store and not to let the attack restrict him. But he could only help out occasionally and he could no longer bear the work in the restaurant and was struggling with sleeping problems.

Like every German citizen, he wants to stand up for this country, answered Rıfat Tekin to the question of the presiding judge Mertens about his future plans. He put only one wish at the end of his statement: he hopes that the court will come to a fair judgement.

His older brother İsmet Tekin testified as the last witness of the day. He left the kebab restaurant, which he now owns, a few minutes before the attack and after a call with his brother, he returned to face the attacker on the street. 

Movingly, İsmet Tekin described how he tried to run back into the crime scene to be with his brother. But the path seemed endless and his legs felt completely empty. At the restaurant, he came across the attacker, who was in a shootout with the police. He was only a few meters away from him. Tekin sharply criticized the fact that he was denied to appear as a joint plaintiff until shortly before the trial. He would have been happy if he had not been affected and endangered and had nothing to do with the matter. But that was not the case. 

He said that as an attendant of the trial he always resisted the pressure. But when he had to listen to Kevin’s father’s testimony, he could no longer do so. He had no words for the attack, no matter what language he used. The pain of a mother or father who loses their child cannot be put into words. For the accused, however, he had one word: he said he was a coward. 

Tekin sharply criticized the fact that similar incidents like the attack in Germany occur again and again. The country was in many ways an example to others. However, all of these problems must be solved together. After the incident, he said, he did not want to apply for German citizenship as he had actually intended: “As long as I have dark hair, a dark complexion, it makes no difference whether I carry a German passport in my pocket or not. But Tekin emphasized how many wonderful people he had met and expressed his gratitude on behalf of his family for their great support and solidarity. 

When the defense counsel Weber tried to interrupt Tekin’s remarks, falsely claiming that he was not even a joint plaintiff, his lawyer Onur Özata clearly stated, to the applause of the joint plaintiffs and the audience: “Once again, the defense counsel showed his ignorance of the trial records. It is shameful that he is trying to interrupt Tekin at this point, while his client repeatedly disturbs the proceedings with ” anti-Semitic and racist nonsense.”

At the end of his testimony, Tekin once again addressed the accused directly, whom he called “the coward”: ” You did not win. You failed in every respect. My brother lives and I live. Yet there is even more solidarity and love. We have no hate. We will not go away, we will not give up, we will stand firm. And you know what? I’m going to be a father. I’m going to have a child soon. I will do everything I can to ensure that my child is committed to this country. And that you evildoers are ashamed. We won’t forget Kevin and Jana. In the Koran, there’s a phrase: “Whoever kills one person, kills all mankind. We’ll live together with this pain. We will do it together. As Turks, Germans, Muslims, Christians and Jews.” 

The trial will continue on September 16, 2020.