Eyewitnesses came forward with their stories Wednesday after an anti-Semitic attack on a synagogue in the eastern city of Halle in Germany, which left two people dead and several more injured, and described the incident and the attacker.
Christiane Prinz, 49, owner of a hairdressing salon opposite the synagogue, said she saw the suspect, dressed in a dark-green military outfit, launch a projectile over the synagogue’s gate into its front yard and cemetery, after which there was a loud bang.
“There was a blast, there was smoke. Then the shooting happened,” said Prinz, adding that she later saw a body on the ground. “It was so unreal. We locked ourselves up, as we still had two customers in the shop”.
René Friedrich, 49, a bakery owner, told CNN he was driving near the synagogue when he saw “a military guy on the right side, and he threw several projectiles over the wall. Twice there was a loud bang”.
Friedrich said the man had two firearms he described as machine guns, one slung over his shoulder and one leaning against a wall.
He said the attacker then boarded a Volkswagen Golf Family with a license plate from Kreis Euskirchen, in the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
The shooting took place at noon, during Yom Kippur, as stated near a synagogue in the city.
German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said prosecutors had enough information to assume a far-right motivation behind the attack, even though it was too early to make a final determination.
A senior security official identified the suspect as Stephan Balliet, 27, a German citizen from the state of Saxony-Anhalt, where Halle is located, and said he wasn’t previously known to authorities.
Balliet streamed himself live before the attack, saying that "the Jews are the root to all problems".
He defined himself as a "Holocaust denier" and blamed Feminism for low birth-rates in the west and condemned mass immigration.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel attended a vigil in Berlin Wednesday evening and expressed "solidarity for all Jews on the holy day of Yom Kippur".
Dozens attended the vigil, carrying signs condemning the attack and singing Jewish liturgical songs.