When the perpetrator of Halle on Wednesday afternoon in the center of the university city rose from the car, it was probably already too late. Too late to dissuade him from storming the synagogue on the main Jewish holiday and shooting people.
The attack on the church failed, shots were fired anyway: two people killed the attacker, several others he injured. What exactly moved this man to this act, and what kind of act was it exactly - a rampage, political terror, some kind of murderous online livestream?
Maybe the Halle attack was all together.
"You can not quite clearly separate that," says right-wing extremism researcher Matthias Quent, who heads the Institute for Democracy and Civil Society in Jena. Primarily, it was a targeted attack on a place of Jewish life in Germany and on migrants - on the other hand, the perpetrator shot a passerby relatively arbitrary behind the back and targeted others who were by chance in the vicinity.
Video: "The door was stronger than his weapon"
Fabrizio Bensch / REUTERS
The suspect was caught after a short escape - it is Stephan Balliet, 27, from Saxony-Anhalt. There is no doubt about the anti-Semitic background of the crime. The perpetrator tried in vain to shoot his way into the synagogue. In statements during his act, which he streamed live, he made no secret of his anti-Semitism and denied, among other things, the Holocaust.
According to Quent, the act is in the tradition of a centuries-old antisemitic narrative, according to which the Jews were responsible for everything bad. How widespread such resentments are, what are the causes and consequences, has recently been heaped:
- The number of anti-Semitic acts of violence in Germany has increased significantly.
- Especially young Germans know nothing or little about the Holocaust.
- Every third Jew in Europe is considering leaving the continent.
According to Quent, racist and antifeminist ideas also played a significant role in the assassin of Halle - and the concept of the "lonely wolf" that right-wing extremist Tom Metzger had spread in the 1990s. According to Quent, right-wing extremists see in it a "single-acting assassin who spreads fear and terror, destroys minorities and finally provokes a civil war."
10 picturesSaxony-Anhalt: Lethal shots in Halle
At the same time, according to Quent, the perpetrator of Halle was part of a large virtual network: that he streamed the act live while speaking English, thus shows the importance of this right-wing extremist "Internationale der Menschenhasser" for the perpetrator.
The act of Halle also had elements of a rampage, as the shot passer-by was a chance victim. Such a mixture of rampage and attack had also existed in Germany in 2016, says Quent: At that time, a student in a shopping center in Munich killed nine people, he had it mainly on people with a migrant background. Whether the act is to be evaluated as a rampage or as racist terror, experts are at odds.
Halle's attack has yet another dimension, according to Quent: gamification, "the staging of a plot like a computer game." Was that even more important to the offender than the act itself?
Quent does not think so. "He chose the location and the day quite deliberately - this suggests that the anti-Semitic position was in the foreground." A manifesto circulating on the Internet, which investigators believe to be authentic according to initial findings, supports this assumption: In it, the perpetrator refers to Jews as preferred targets.
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Much of this is reminiscent of the attack on mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. There, in March, a right-wing extremist had killed 51 people and injured dozens more - even this act had been streamed live by the attacker on the Internet.
Avoiding such acts is difficult according to Quent, especially because of the right subculture on the Internet. "This is a milieu that on the one hand is not covered by both the security authorities and the Network Enforcement Act - and on the other hand, we hardly have any research on how the radicalization is going there."
According to Quent, one approach could be advice centers that people could turn to if they perceive that someone in their environment is interested in building weapons. In the case of the attack in Halle, there must have been warning signs: "If you look at yourself," says Quent, "how systematically he has apparently prepared weapons, then it is difficult for me to imagine that no one has noticed anything."