On September 16, 2020, on the 13th day of the Halle trial, two joint plaintiffs testified, who were in the synagogue in Halle on October 9, 2019. In addition, four police officers were heard as witnesses, who were shot by the accused in front of the kebab restaurant and then returned the fire.
At the beginning of the hearing, the presiding judge threatened to impose fines and expel people from the courtroom, if, as on the previous day, applause were to follow witness statements. She could understand that one wanted to signal one’s support to the witnesses, but said that there were other means of doing so. Alexander Hoffmann and Kristin Pietrzyk, attorneys for joint plaintiffs, took a stand against these threats: The brief applause did not disturb the proceedings, but only showed an expression of deep solidarity. If the presiding judge actually imposed the fines, she would join the tradition of undignified treatment of victims of right-wing violence in court. After the following two testimonies, attorney Hoffmann suggested that solidarity could be expressed by quietly standing up – a gesture that was supported by numerous people in the courtroom.
The first witness this day, Jacqueline Lauren F., described how the trauma of the attack had shaken her life. When she was six years old, she experienced how her father, who worked in the World Trade Center and survived the September 11th attack, had been changed forever by that event. She always knew what it meant to suffer from trauma, she said, thanks to the transgenerational experience of the Shoah. When she survived the attack of October 9, 2019, during which she also suspected that the dead Jana L. in front of the synagogue was her friend Mollie S., she knew immediately that she would be a different person from then on.
The three traumas that shaped her life were all connected by antisemitism: Since September 11, antisemitic narratives and conspiracy fantasies have gained importance and spread globally via Internet. The perpetrator of Halle also operated in these circles, she said, and should not be regarded as a lone wolf. He wanted to motivate imitators to follow his example. The online communities that refer to the ideology of White Supremacy must be urgently investigated and observed. In her role as a joint plaintiff, she also wanted to point out that the perpetrator was by no means only motivated by antisemitism, but that racism, Islamophobia and sexism were closely interwoven in his world view. She had the impression that this topic was often neglected in the debate about the attack.
The second witness, Sabrina S., also emphasized that she was not only Jewish, but also a woman, a leftist, a migrant, and gay, and therefore would be a major target in the perpetrator’s world view. But White Supremacy also posed a danger to all other people: “I look around here and we all look like Jana or Kevin or İsmet.”. The problem of this way of thinking and right-wing terror could not be solved by even the strictest security measures. The first part of the radicalization is the society, in which it is quite normal to say that migrants or Muslims do not belong to Germany, along with the accused. Only later did his online contacts with his companions become right-wing terror. It was therefore not important to merely protect synagogues or to put the perpetrator in prison forever: The central question, according to Sabrina S., is that we all prevent our children from becoming right-wing extremists and neo-Nazis. Anyone who grows up with respect for other people cannot become anything like the accused. Even if her trust in the state’ s protection, the legal system and the police were broken, she said she hoped that she would see many survivors of racism and antisemitism who live on strongly and with joy. Like Jacqueline Lauren F., S. also reported on the difficulties of finding therapeutic help.
In the second half of the 13th day of the trial, the three police officers were heard one after another as witnesses who tried to place the accused in front of the kebab restaurant, who were fired upon immediately and who returned fire. In the course of this exchange of fire, the attacker was hit in the neck and fell to the ground, but managed to flee. According to the prosecution, the shots fired at the task force were supposed to have been attempted murder.
Three officers from the team which answered the call from the crime scene described the events of the day of the shooting in broad agreement: According to the indictment, Sarah B. and Dirk F. were to be supported by their colleague Daniel L. during a routine mission in Halle-Neustadt at noon on October 9. On the way there, they received information that units were needed in Humboldtstraße, where the synagogue is located. They did not react to this at first, but only offered their support when other colleagues reported that they were already at the site in Halle-Neustadt. Only when they were asked what exactly awaited them in Humboldtstrasse did they mention one or more perpetrators, firearms, explosives and a possible casualty. Memories diverged as to whether this radio message had already mentioned the synagogue as the target of the attack. On the way to Humboldtstraße, Sarah B. and Daniel L. equipped themselves with heavy protective gear, L. also armed himself with a submachine gun. They were then told, with still little information available, that an attacker had been reported in the meantime in a kebab restaurant in Ludwig-Wucherer-Straße. When they arrived at this new location, the accused immediately opened fire on them. He hit the police car several times. Covering himself behind the police car, L. fired back with the submachine gun. After the first two shots at the accused, “nothing happened for a while,” L. described in court. Pictures of the crime show that the accused was hit by a bullet in the neck and fell to the ground, but then was still able to escape in his car. During the interrogation, the plaintiffs raised the question of why the police officers did not proceed to question the perpetrator under these circumstances. The emergency services and another police officer who later joined the scene in a civilian vehicle assured that they were completely unaware that they had met the perpetrator and were waiting for his reaction. They also wanted to protect themselves from possible further perpetrators. They quickly lost sight of the fleeing attacker and were then assigned to various tasks until the evening. They were driven by the goal of catching the perpetrator. All four police officers reported on the serious psychological consequences of the crime, on insomnia, anxiety and states of mourning. None of them is currently on patrol duty.
The trial will continue on September 22, 2020.