Felix Klein one year after the attack in Halle: “Fears are back”

One year after the attack in Halle, the anti-Semitism officer Felix Klein worries about the Jewish community – and criticizes Saxony-Anhalt’s interior minister.

This is where the assassin failed a year ago: the door to the synagogue in Halle Photo: Hendrik Schmidt / dpa

taz: Mr. Klein, A year ago a right-wing extremist attacked the synagogue in Halle and killed two people. Do you remember how you found out about it back then?

Felix Klein: Yes, my wife and I were on the way from the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial back to Berlin. It was a shock to me as it was to everyone. We had just launched important structures against anti-Semitism, a federal-state commission, the Rias reporting system. And then that. I felt very powerless.

The perpetrator wanted to cause a massacre. Only the synagogue door prevented him from doing so. Would you have thought such an act possible?

I thought that an attack was possible. Especially when you saw how radical the tone was on the Internet. But I did not expect such a hateful, inhuman act in this dimension.

The synagogue was not protected by the police at the time. An unforgivable mistake?

It would have been unforgivable if it had happened willfully. But apparently the police didn’t even know that Yom Kippur was being celebrated there and that there was an increased need for security.

But that’s also a problem.

the lawyer and diplomat is the Federal Government Commissioner for Jewish life and the fight against anti-Semitism.

Yes of course. That was a negligence that is unacceptable. And this anti-Semitic attack, which ultimately cost the lives of two non-Jews, was also a turning point. He shook up the security authorities. Today the community in Halle is permanently guarded. And the police have evolved, the handling of religious holidays has improved.

A few days ago, however, a man attacked a believer in front of a synagogue in Hamburg, seriously injuring him. How safe do Jews still live in Germany?

Hamburg has shown that this time protective measures took effect. The police had the holiday on their radar there. And the police property guards immediately arrested the attacker and prevented further violence.

But not the attack on the young believer.

There can be no absolute protection. But of course the attack should be an occasion to re-examine the security measures in front of Jewish institutions.

So too little has happened since the attack in Halle?

In my opinion the opposite is the case. The federal government and the states are doing their utmost here. The Federal Ministry of the Interior has just made available 22 million euros for structural protection measures, and the federal states have also taken money into their hands again. In addition, the federal government has launched a comprehensive package of measures, such as the obligation to report online hate postings to the BKA, which I expect a lot from in the fight against anti-Semitism. Because the clientele backs away when they receive counter pressure and the police are at the door. And we saw in Halle that the root of the threat was radicalization on the Internet.

Is that enough? After the Hamburg attack, the Central Council of Jews once again called for more protection for religious institutions and a resolute social commitment against anti-Semitism.

There are certainly further opportunities for improvement. For example, I would like the police nationwide to know the Jewish calendar and on which occasions special protection is necessary. And it is also correct that the state cannot resolve the matter alone. This requires a courageous civil society that counteracts when anti-Semitism is expressed. That is the most important thing. I think the best protection would be if Jewish life were perceived much more as something that is taken for granted, as part of German diversity. We have to do more for that.

After the attack in Halle and the attack in Hambrug, the situation is different: the Jewish community feels seriously threatened.

Yes, that’s how I perceive it, she is very worried. And that is also very understandable. After politics reacted to Halle, my impression was that the community had settled down somewhat. But now the fears are back. We have to take that very seriously.

Isn’t that an indictment of poverty, especially for Germany with its history?

These concerns must alarm us, absolutely. The very fact that Jewish families are discussing whether they can continue to live in Germany is more than an alarm signal.

As the anti-Semitism commissioner, you report to the federal government. Don’t you have to put more pressure on in view of this?

We are making a significant effort. The Chancellor herself is also very committed. Everyone is aware of the seriousness of the situation.

But many of those affected say: we don’t want more encouragement, we want to see action.

It has already existed. Many of the measures decided must now be implemented first. Nevertheless, there will be another catalog of measures shortly, from the cabinet committee to combat right-wing extremism.

Last year the number of anti-Semitic crimes rose by 13 percent to a good 2,000 crimes. What’s your explanation for that?

The increase is mainly due to the brutality on the Internet and the local incitement to hatred and Holocaust denial. But there is also a positive explanation: those affected report these incidents more strongly. This is a good development and something that I also encourage. Making hatred visible is the first step in combating it.

Why does such hatred always end up in anti-Semitic attacks?

That does not surprise me. Anti-Semitism is so practiced in our culture that it is used again and again, especially in times of uncertainty. Jews were blamed for the plague as far back as the Middle Ages; today this is repeated with the corona virus. This is really fatal.

Even Saxony-Anhalt’s Interior Minister Holger Stahlknecht (CDU) has just promoted anti-Semitism by referring to the times of police officers in front of Jewish buildings that were missing elsewhere.

To portray Jews as privileged people, for whom action would be taken at the expense of the general public, actually fuels anti-Semitism. It is not possible that groups are played off against each other. Unfortunately, Jewish communities need increased security, but that’s not because of the Jews, but because of the threats against them. And the state has a duty to ensure that they can practice their religion without restriction. I think he has to bear 100 percent of the security costs for this. Because this is a fundamental right.

Do you think anti-Semitism can one day be defeated?

It can at least be pushed back so far that the quality of life can be significantly improved. The whole of society benefits from this, not just the Jews. The vast majority in Germany is democratic and vigilant. That gives me hope.


Yom Kippur after the assassination attempt in Halle: “There will be a next time”

Iona Berger was on Yom Kippur during the attack in the synagogue in Halle in 2019. To this day, she struggles with feelings of guilt.

Iona Berger was in the Halle synagogue at the time of the attack Photo: Rolf Peter Stoffels / image

taz: Ms. Berger, last year on Yom Kippur you were in the synagogue in Halle when a right-wing extremist assassin tried to storm the synagogue and then killed Jana L. and Kevin S. September 28th is Yom Kippur again. What does this time mean for you personally?

Iona Berger: During this time it is decided whether to be inscribed in the Book of Life, and on Yom Kippur it is then sealed. It’s about asking people to forgive you before you can ask God for forgiveness. It is traditionally a time when you reflect a lot. This year I find it very difficult to get involved in this time. I feel unprepared for Yom Kippur. The last year has been so chaotic, not just because of Halle, but for all of us. What does repentance to God mean after what has happened? How can I deal with my own guilt?

You have already said in court that you feel guilty for the victims because the attack was actually aimed at you. Has Halle become a place that you avoid?

Not at all. There was just no reason for me to go to Halle. I was there on the day of Jana’s funeral. Before that I was in the synagogue and looked around again.

Are you in Halle again for Yom Kippur this year?

No. Halle is problematic because of the Corona distance rules. But it was clear to me: I want to spend Yom Kippur with “Base Berlin” – no matter where. “Base Berlin” is the group with whom I drove from Berlin to the synagogue in Halle last year, and I want to spend this difficult day with the same people again. I will be back in Halle on October 9th, when it will be the anniversary of the attack.

What will be different about Yom Kippur this year?

Due to the distance rules, not everyone can go to the synagogue, there is simply not enough space for that. That is why “Base Berlin” has rented space in Berlin. What has also changed: In the past, “Base Berlin” never had security guards, there was no reason for them. From now on there will always be. There will also be psychological support on the day.

30, studied in England with a Masters degree in International Security. In 2019 she traveled to Yom Kippur with a young Jewish group from Berlin to Halle.

According to your statement, you noticed that there was no police in front of the synagogue in Halle the day before Yom Kippur. But “the idea that someone in Halle was shooting at the synagogue struck me as completely absurd,” you said in court. How do you rate the security of synagogues in Germany today?

There is a difference between rational knowledge and the subjective feeling of security when I go into a synagogue. Rationally, it is incredibly unlikely that anything would happen in this very synagogue. It was the first time it was attacked, and it is even more improbable that it will happen again in the synagogue I am in, of all places. On the other hand, I now always look around twice to see where the officers are, for example.

Should police presence in front of synagogues be compulsory?

Before the attack I was sometimes amused by the increased police presence, now I don’t do that anymore. I still don’t think it’s absolutely necessary, but if the police had been in front of the synagogue in Halle on Yom Kippur last year, Jana and Kevin would probably still be alive. It’s not just about our own safety, but also about that of the people around us. The attack clearly showed that again.

Some co-plaintiffs expressed their lack of trust in the police in court. Do you share that?

I know that the police in Halle and the police in Berlin are not the same. The police themselves testified in court that they had never experienced a situation like this before. I think the police in Berlin are simply better prepared for such a dangerous situation and have more experience in operations involving firearms. I don’t generally think that all police officers are maliciously hired or incapable. I have a basic trust in this, although I know that there are systematic problems.

There are increasing reports of additional trauma caused by the behavior of the officers on site.

I think it is important to also criticize the police approach in Halle without accusing certain female police officers. I hope that the next attack on a synagogue or mosque or the like will go better and that the next survivors will not be additionally traumatized by the police operation. And yes, I think there will be a next time, unfortunately.


One year after the attack in Halle: Länder protect synagogues better

Almost a year has passed since the anti-Semitic attack in Halle. Today more money is being used to protect Jewish institutions. But is that enough?

October 10, 2019: Police officers in front of the New Synagogue in Berlin Photo: Christian Mang / reuters

BERLIN taz | A year ago Naomi Henkel-Gümbel was in the synagogue in Halle on Yom Kippur, the highest Jewish holiday, when a right-wing extremist tried to storm the building. Henkel-Gümbel was a guest in Halle, actually she lives in Berlin. She feels pretty safe here, she says, but the city is an exception. Small Jewish communities in particular often lack the money to effectively protect their institutions.

Henkel-Gümbel, who is also a joint plaintiff in the trial against the alleged assassin from Halle, is sitting in the New Synagogue in Berlin, the media service has invited to a press conference. “One year after Halle: How well are synagogues protected?” Is the question to be discussed.

The media service asked all federal states what they had changed since the attack. The result: Jewish institutions are more closely guarded in almost all federal states. In addition, almost all countries have made additional funds available to better protect synagogues, daycare centers or schools – for example with bulletproof doors, fences or sluices at the entrance. Bavaria has pledged eight million, Hesse four, and Saxony-Anhalt 2.4 million euros. In addition, there are 22 million from the federal government.

The litmus test is whether there is really construction going on, says Ronen Steinke, lawyer and journalist whose book “Terror gegen Juden” has just been published. For far too long, the Jewish communities had to rely on themselves to implement the police’s safety recommendations, and some communities would have to bear up to 50 percent of the costs themselves. Before the attack, not a single euro of tax money flowed into the synagogue in Halle for the protection of the building, said Steinke. “That was clearly a failure of the state.”

A double dark field

“Avoidance of danger is the task of the state”, emphasized the author. That is why the police must see it as their duty to counter this danger. Less than one hundred percent financing of security measures is not acceptable. “If we don’t ensure that, the right to practice one’s religion is not worth much.”

“The protection of Jewish communities has become better, but it is not yet good across the board,” admitted Jürgen Peter, Deputy Head of the Federal Criminal Police Office. “A lot more dialogue” between the Jewish communities and the police is also necessary. In the past year, the security authorities established 2023 anti-Semitic crimes, most of which are right-wing motivated, said Peter. “More than five crimes per day, that’s unbearable.” In addition, there is a double dark field: The police do not recognize anti-Semitic crimes as such – or they would not even report the offenses.

This was confirmed by Sigmount Königsberg, anti-Semitism commissioner for the Jewish community in Berlin. Incidents are often only recorded by the police as bodily harm, but not the anti-Semitic background of an act. In addition, according to an EU study, only every fifth anti-Semitic crime is reported.

Steinke emphasized how “perverse” the situation is that Jewish institutions have to be guarded and spoke of a state of siege. “So that we can go to school or to church services, the police are standing at the door.”

Henkel-Gümbel – the survivor of the Halle attack, had also sharply criticized the behavior of the police after the attack and the investigations in the past. On Tuesday, however, she emphasized that, despite everything, Germany was the country in which she would continue to live in the future. “I can’t leave the people here alone,” said the budding rabbi. One should not leave room for right-wing extremist ideologies and show solidarity. “I have to do my part.”


Exhibition in the Jewish Museum Berlin: From Karl Marx to Amy Winehouse

The new permanent exhibition in the Jewish Museum Berlin shows the unexpected and is not a history lesson in the conventional sense. A tour.

The “Hall of Fame” with installations by Andree Volkmann in the new permanent exhibition Photo: Britta Pedersen

The stylized pomegranate tree at the very beginning of the exhibition, where you can leave your wishes on the branches on small cards, it is still there. And of course Daniel Libeskind’s jagged building has also remained the same. The curators have redesigned the permanent exhibition of the Jewish Museum in Berlin to such an extent that one can rightly speak of a new museum. It is definitely a new show.

The job has stayed the same. “Jewish past and present” is the theme. “The story has not changed – but our perspective on it,” writes the new director Hetty Berg at the premiere. Jewish life in Germany has developed further. But anti-Semitism, previously only expressed behind closed doors, has become more socially acceptable, she says at the opening. It is important to address these developments.

It is not as if the museum itself has been spared heated debates in recent times. A more than misleading press release, a controversial Jerusalem special show, allegations that the museum was inviting the wrong people and using anti-Israel clichés, at the end of the resignation of a director and critical words from the Central Council of Jews: The museum has had stormy times.

But nothing would be more wrong than to look at the new exhibition from the perspective of this controversy, even to want to count how often Theodor Herzl is mentioned (several times) and how many square meters the State of Israel has received (sufficient). It is risk enough to squeeze the history of the German Jews between the walls of the Libeskind building, the German Jews, mind you, and not world Jewry, Israel or even anti-Semitism. The old show was already exciting in this regard. And the new one?

Torah and plucked chicken

It begins, wonderfully and yet conventionally, with religious life, represented by a Torah enclosed in a cylindrical glass body, connected to an interactive station on the Hebrew alphabet. Just a few steps further, however, you can pick up a deceptively real replica of a plucked chicken. It is about the dietary laws (kashrut), and the chicken serves as an example of what is allowed for consumption. It’s not banal and it’s more than just fun, because this museum aims to inspire the younger generation in particular.

Pink flamenco dress

Flamenco dress with a story, an exhibit in the Jewish Museum in Berlin Photo: Roman March

Jewish and German history are told chronologically, beginning with the Middle Ages and early modern times, with the presentation of great exhibits, most of which come from our own collection. But this narrative is now interrupted by what museum people coldly call thematic blocks, but has a very warm effect on the visitor: for example, sounding niches, hidden behind thin metal curtains, in which the shofar can be heard, klezmer, Israeli pop or music from the 1920s.

Again and again such installations interrupt the course through the centuries in an irritating way, including works of art such as Anselm Kiefer’s “Break of the Vessels” on the Kabbalah or a collection of family albums with objects. A surprise lurks around almost every corner on the winding path of the exhibition. Not everything seems to have been successful around it, for example Frédéric Brenner’s naked man lying on his stomach, who is more perplexing than helping to clarify the situation.

Kosher gummy bears

Or the “Hall of Fame”, dedicated to Jewish personalities from Karl Marx to Amy Winehouse, which appears as a narrow stairwell – at least with a machine where you can pull kosher gummy bears.

The exhibition is both tidier and more concise. The overload of the old show has disappeared, the lines are clearer, the layout is clear and adapted to the architecture. At the same time, the around 20 curators headed by Cilly Kugelmann have resolutely set priorities. Some things had to be made smaller, for example when it comes to the early modern era and the Enlightenment. That is unfortunate.

But also 3,599 square meters of space are finite, as the audience’s capacity is limited. Two chapters in particular now take up significantly more space than before: the “Catastrophe”, that is, the disenfranchisement and murder under National Socialism, and “After 1945”. That’s a statement, especially today.

View of the entrance to the exhibition, installations and stairs

Click here for the exhibition “Jewish history and the present in Germany” Photo: Roman March

“Dir Werner Liebenthal” is written on a tin sign. To the left of this, the words “Prussian Notariat”, above “Notariat” and below “Lawyer” are crossed out in bold. With this apparently inconspicuous signet you enter the rooms dedicated to the Holocaust and its prehistory. Werner Liebenthal was banned from working in 1933, he escaped the Nazis in 1939 by emigrating to what was then Palestine.

In a showcase there are always photos of the same signs from different communities in Germany: “Jews are not wanted here” is the inscription. In addition, there are examples of the hundreds of ordinances and laws with which the National Socialists sought to exclude Jews from society, to brand them and to destroy their existence, hanging in strips from the ceiling.

Bare digits

The Jewish Museum does not want to be a Holocaust museum, but of course the Holocaust has to play a central role here. He does that, but in a different way than usual: no picture of murdered people piled up in mountains, no barbed wire and no representation of the extermination camps: the exhibition shows graphically prepared bare digits, gives the number of those who escaped in time and those who did who did not succeed.

This continues in the department over the years after 1945, a time when hardly anyone and certainly not a Jewish person wanted or could believe that Jewish life in Germany could ever be conceivable again. There you stand in front of a whole wall with the ID cards of survivors from the concentration camps, an oversized photo shows the application folders lying in shelves for financial compensation for the surviving victims. They lay there long, damn long.

A flamenco dress in bright colors greets the visitor in a room that investigates the question of what a Jewish object actually is. It became the dress through its owners: Sylvin Rubinstein and his sister toured Europe as celebrated flamenco stars until the beginning of World War II. At the beginning of the war they were in Poland and were deported to the Warsaw Ghetto. Both went underground, but only the brother survived and bought this dress after the war in memory of his sister.

Jewish Museum Berlin: daily 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Due to the Corona restrictions, time slot tickets must be booked in advance at https://shop.jmberlin.de/

That there is a life beyond death threats and hatred of Jews, that Judaism exists again in this country and how complex it is, you can find out in this last chapter, which ends with a great video installation: people report on 21 monitors about their being Jewish in Germany. They talk about their hobbies, jobs, desires and what it means to be a Jew. First individually, then merging, finally in a polyphonic choir. Yael Reuveny and Clemens Walter called their work mesubin (the assembled). It’s a demonstration against any stereotype. Jewish life? Here it is.


And the Oscar goes to …

A dream came true for several Hollywood stars at the Oscar ceremony on Monday night: Joaquin Phoenix became the male lead in the dark thriller joker excellent. To gladiator, Walk the line and The Master Now it worked for the American Jewish actor on the fourth attempt. Phoenix used his acceptance speech for a flaming appeal for nature conservation and against injustice. “I think we’re best when we support each other,” he said.

Brad Pitt also received his first acting Oscar: for his supporting role in Quentin Tarantinos Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The 56-year-old remembered his beginnings in Hollywood with tears and dedicated the award to his children. Renée Zellweger won the role of Judy Garland in Judy as expected, the award for best actress, and Laura Dern was honored for her portrayal of a tough divorce lawyer in “Marriage Story” as best supporting actress – the evening before her 53rd birthday.

Taika Waititi The New Zealand director Taika Waititi was for his Nazi satire Yoyo Rabbit was awarded an Oscar for the best adapted screenplay. He said, “I made this film in response to the return of hate, intolerance and hate speech. Anyone who was a Nazi went to prison after the war. Today, however, Nazis can hold a rally in a square in a city. Something has to change, something is wrong here. «

At first, the 44-year-old was surprised at how light the Oscar statue was. Then he thanked his mother who gave him the book on which Yoyo Rabbit based. He mentioned a few other names and said he wanted to thank more people, but he didn’t remember any names. That’s why he said: “That’s it!”, Which caused laughter in the hall.

But he added: »This is really great and I dedicate it to all indigenous children who live in the world and make art, dance and write stories. We are the original storytellers and we can make it here. «

Scarlett Johansson for her role in Jojo Rabbit as the best supporting actress and her role in Marriage story was nominated as the best leading actress, went away empty-handed.

Scarlett Johansson, for her mother role in Yoyo Rabbit as best supporting actress and for her portrayal in Marriage story was nominated as the best leading actress, went away empty-handed.

The Oscar for the best film goes to South Korea for the first time – and for the first time to a non-English-language production. In total, there were four awards for the satire in Hollywood on Monday night Parasite: In addition to the king category, filmmaker Bong Joon Ho also won the Oscar abroad and the awards for best director and best original screenplay.

His bitter film, which had already won a Golden Globe and the Golden Palm from Cannes, tells the story of a poor family who nestles in the home of a wealthy family. The highly traded war drama 1917 received three Oscars, including one for the best camera. The historic racing film received two awards Le Mans 66: Against every chance. The Mafia epic was the loser The Irishman from the 92nd Oscar gala. The top-class film by old master Martin Scorsese had been nominated ten times, but did not win a single award.

Film music Rock star Elton John and his songwriter Bernie Taupin were awarded for the best film song: “(I’m gonna) Love Me Again” from the biopic Rocketman. The best film music in the opinion of the US film academy came from the Icelandic Hildur Gudnadóttir for joker from.

The 18-year-old US singer Billie Eilish, who sang the Beatles classic »Yesterday« for the greats in the film industry who had died since the last gala, such as Kirk Douglas and Doris Day, created a moving moment during the gala. The fatally injured basketball superstar and Oscar winner Kobe Bryant was also commemorated.

The trophy for the best animated film went to the fourth Toy story-Movie Everything does not stop at a command by Josh Cooley. Greta Gerwig’s novel adaptation received the Oscar for the best costume design Little women. The drama was in the make-up / hairstyle section Bombshell – The end of silence excellent.

The film won in the Documentation category American factory. The documentary tells of the people in a factory in Ohio. It is the first plant to be supported by the Barack and Michelle Obama production company. Both congratulated the filmmakers on Twitter for their “moving story”. The only German Oscar hope – the documentation co-produced by SWR The Cave about an underground hospital in Syria – went empty-handed. dpa / ag