synagogue roof in munich

Shooter Was Unable to Enter German Synagogue, Saving Lives of Worshipers Inside

A man who targeted a synagogue during the Yom Kippur holiday killed two people outside but could not break through the door with gunfire or an explosive.

A gunman in Germany opened fire on a synagogue during the Yom Kippur holiday on Wednesday, live streaming the attack on the platform Twitch. He eventually killed two people in the town of Halle, one who was directly outside the synagogue and another who was at a kebab shop around the corner. 

The gunman, who has since been arrested by police, likely would have claimed several more lives if he had been able to enter the synagogue. But he was unable to break through the door to the center despite shooting at a lock and sticking an explosive in a door jam, CNN reported

The door’s ability to stand up against gunfire and an explosive protected the 51 people inside the synagogue, who were watching the attack unfold on security cameras. Police did not arrive for about 10 minutes after the first shots were fired. Max Privorozky, the head of Halle’s Jewish community, told CNN that the building had “good doors” that are “better than weapons.” 

Jewish leaders in Germany were highly concerned about the lack of police protection for the synagogue in the light of growing anti-Semitism and an increase in attacks on Jews. 

“The fact that the synagogue in Halle was not protected by the police on a holiday like Yom Kippur is scandalous," Josef Schuster, the president of Germany's Central Council of Jews, said in a statement.

Oliver Malchow, the leader of the German police union, said that police forces do not have the ability to protect every house of worship around the clock. Synagogues in urban areas like Munich and Berlin often have police protection during holidays or throughout the year, but that was not the case in Halle. 

“I don't know if this was a mistake or if this really couldn't have been foreseen,” Malchow said on German television, according to Reuters. 

While the attack was live streamed on to Twitch, only five people saw the attack as it happened. About 2,200 people were able to view the video before the platform took it down only 30 minutes after it went online, according to MIT Technology Review

In contrast, the live stream of the Christchurch, New Zealand mosque attack was watched by hundreds live on Facebook and potentially millions of people afterward. Versions of that video still remain online. 

Twitch said it had taken action to make sure video of the Halle shooting could not be reposted elsewhere on social media. The company created a hash, or a unique cryptographic fingerprint, of the livestream and shared it with the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism, a group of tech companies and governments that are working to remove versions of the video. 

“We take this extremely seriously and are committed to working with industry peers, law enforcement, and any relevant parties to protect our community,” a Twitch spokesperson said in a statement.

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