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Conflict in Israel as a motive: Suspects confess to attack on Bonn synagogue

Conflict in Israel as a motive : Suspects confess to attack on Bonn synagogue

In Bonn's Tempelstraße, stones were thrown at the synagogue. Slips of paper with writing and a burnt Israeli flag were also found. The chairwoman of the Bonn community reacts in dismay. The suspects admit to the crime.

In the early evening hours, there was damage to property at the Bonn synagogue in Tempelstraße. According to police, perpetrators allegedly threw stones at the building and damaged window glass above the entrance door.

A resident had observed several young adults attacking the synagogue entrance around 7:30 p.m. and also handling "fire" on an adjacent sidewalk. Before the arrival of the emergency services, the persons, who according to witness statements numbered three or four, ran away in the direction of the Rhine.

Police suspect political motive and arrest suspects

The arriving officers found impacts of two stones on the window front of the synagogue as well as three notes, which were provided with presumably Arabic letters. On the sidewalk, the forces also found a lit white-blue flag. Further data could not be provided by the police on Wednesday morning, on inquiry so far.

The police, who according to first statements suspect a political motive behind the damage to property, seized three suspicious persons during the immediately initiated search. At approximately 7.50 pm the task forces provisionally arrested two 20-year-old men in the area of the Adenauerallee. A short time later, a 24-year-old suspect was stopped in the Niebuhrstraße area and also provisionally arrested.

According to police, one suspect admitted in the course of questioning to having thrown a stone at the synagogue building. In addition, the men admitted to have burned a previously purchased Israeli flag in front of the building. When asked about their motivation, they explained that the current conflict in Israel had prompted them to commit the crime.

The three suspects, who, according to the police, have permanent residences in Germany and have not previously come to the attention of the criminal police, were able to leave police headquarters after the investigation was completed. They are from Syria, as the police confirmed on request. They are being investigated on suspicion of causing common damage to property.

"We are always in danger"

Also, another suspected person could still be sought in connection with the property damage. Witnesses had observed a female person who was presumed to be between 18 and 22 years old and had tied her dark hair into a braid. A vehicle with which the perpetrators may have been traveling was recovered on Graf-Galen-Strasse. The police were in close contact with other security authorities after the attack. Protective measures had been adapted.

The chairwoman of the synagogue community in Bonn, Margaret Traub, is shaken the day after the attack. She said she had not slept all night. "I am totally depressed. Until now, I believed we could live here in peace," she told the General-Anzeiger. "No matter where we Jews are, we are always in danger." She said she expected fewer congregants to come to the synagogue after the incident. Many have telephoned her to show their sympathy. "That's very impressive." She thanked the police for their quick response. "No matter what happens, the police are always on the scene.“

Police seek witnesses

Also in Münster, there was also an incident at a synagogue on Tuesday evening. According to the report, witnesses had told police about a group of about 15 people with Arabic appearance who had attracted attention by shouting loudly in front of the synagogue and burning the flag. Upon the arrival of security forces, the group immediately dispersed, but 13 people were stopped. A partially burned Israeli national flag was recovered on the street in front of the synagogue.

Police are asking witnesses who observed anything in connection with the events described to contact the police state security department at 0228-150.

Politics condemns incidents

Following reports of the attacks, NRW Transport Minister Hendrik Wüst (CDU) took a clear stand against anti-Semitism. "There is no place for anti-Semitism in NRW," the politician wrote on Twitter on Wednesday morning. German Labor Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) also condemned anti-Israeli actions at synagogues in Bonn and Münster as "completely unacceptable." "It is not acceptable at all that flags of Israel are burned in Germany or that there are anti-Semitic rallies in front of synagogues," Heil said Wednesday morning in RTL/ntv's (Cologne) interview series "Frühstart." He added that it must be made clear that society as a whole stands by the side of Jewish fellow citizens. Synagogues would have to be well protected.

The SPD politician expressed concern about the situation of people in Israel and in the autonomous areas. "It is now up to all sides to pacify this conflict. And of course it must not be brought to Germany," Heil stressed.

The Green Party in Bonn also condemned what had happened. They said it was shocking "that we have to experience such attacks in Bonn and that Jewish life needs protection here." He said the case also shows "that the synagogue needs protection - not only police protection, but also social protection.“

"A blow to our society"

Mayor Katja Dörner called the attack on Twitter "intolerable and disturbing." She said she called the community's chairwoman on Tuesday evening and offered support. "We in Bonn in particular are proud of our cosmopolitan society in which everyone can feel at home," she said in a statement Wednesday. Dörner appealed to all Bonn residents to stand in solidarity with Jews. "We will not leave you alone!“

The chairwoman of Bonn's SPD, Jessica Rosenthal, condemned the act. "Those who attack synagogues attack us all. Anti-Semites and racists have no place in our society." The chairman of the CDU city council faction, Guido Déus, was "shocked and outraged." "Our solidarity is with our Jewish fellow citizens as part of our urban society in a cosmopolitan Bonn." Members of the CDU will hold a vigil in front of the synagogue on Wednesday evening. The Bonn German-Israeli Society is also calling for people to "show our solidarity with the Jewish community" at 6 pm.

The Christian Jewish Society (GCJZ) Bonn said the attack was "bitter and shocking." Anti-Semitism has shown itself to be increasingly unrestrained in recent years, including in connection with the defamation of Israeli symbols such as the burning of Israel's flag, the GCJZ Bonn board explained. "We must be vigilant and also publicly stand even more clearly on the side of our Jewish fellow citizens." Every attack on Jewish life is "a blow against our society," emphasizes the Protestant chairman, Bonn pastor Joachim Gerhardt. It is important now to show Jews compassion and solidarity, he said.

Binnaz Öztoprak, chairman of the integration council of the city of Bonn, was "stunned" when he heard about the attack. "Bonn is our international hometown. Bonn is open to the world. We live together as a community in our city. The attack on the synagogue will not change that.“

BDS group announces demonstration

Referring to the attacks in Bonn and Münster, the chairman of the Central Council of Jews, Josef Schuster, said the threat to the Jewish community was growing. Protection of Jewish institutions must now be increased, he said. "All of us together must stand by the Jewish state.“

The Federal Agency for Civic Education, which sits in the immediate vicinity of the synagogue, also expressed concern and has offered support to the community. At the same time, the agency points to comprehensive materials on anti-Semitism that can be obtained free of charge.

On Tuesday, the BDS group Bonn announced on its website a demonstration "against expulsion and apartheid". It is to take place on Saturday, May 22, on Remigiusplatz. Upon request, the police confirmed a rally at which 30 people are expected. BDS stands for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. The political campaign was classified as anti-Semitic by the German Bundestag in May 2019.

2019: High juvenile sentence after attack on Jewish scientist

In July 2018, the attack by a then 20-year-old German with Palestinian roots on Jewish visiting professor Yitzhak Melamed from the United States had made headlines across Germany. The young man had attacked the scientist in broad daylight on the Hofgartenwiese in Bonn and knocked his kippah off his head several times.

In 2019, the Bonn District Court sentenced the attacker, who was also charged in other cases, to a heavy juvenile sentence for incitement of the people, among other things. The attack also made waves in the media because the police who were called in mistook the victim for the perpetrator and struck the professor down. The subsequent investigation against the police officers involved in the operation was dropped by the public prosecutor's office in Bonn.

Original text: Fabian Schäfer

Translation: Mareike Graepel