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BREAKING NEWS

German city in shock in wake of synagogue attack

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Image: A woman lights a candle at a makeshift memorial in Halle, Germany Oc
A woman lights a candle at a makeshift memorial in Halle, Germany Oct 10, 2019, after two people were killed in a shooting. -
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/Hannibal Hanschke
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MAINZ, Germany — The streets of the small, eastern German city of Halle were quiet Thursday morning as the community remained in "a state of shock" in the aftermath of a deadly shooting targeting a synagogue.

Dozens of people including a group of visiting Americans were gathering for worship on the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur on Wednesday when a gunman opened fire outside a synagogue. The assailant didn't breach the building, but two people were killed in the attack and several more were injured.

"Residents can hardly process this, they are still in a state of shock," the city's mayor Bernd Wiegand told NBC's German partner broadcaster ZDF on Thursday. "We are trying to get back to normality, step by step."

The violence was livestreamed by the gunman on the gaming platform Twitch before being shared across white supremacist channels on the encrypted messaging app Telegram.

The 35-minute video shows the man parking near the synagogue and trying to enter the door, which is locked. Unable to enter the synagogue, he shot one woman before driving to a kebab shop where he shot another person.

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The suspected gunman was later arrested, a police spokesman confirmed Wednesday.

On Thursday, Halle's mayor told ZDF his city is colorful and diverse and not a center for far-right extremism.

There are many efforts to combat racism and antisemitism in schools and through the community, Wiegand said. But he added those issues of hate are rippling through society and more needs to be done to address it.

"This right-wing extremism motivated attack dismays us all," governor of the western state Northrhein-Westphalia, Armin Laschet, told the German news outlet Spiegel Online. "We live in times, where right-wing radical terror is killing people, in Germany, right amongst us."

Synagogues are often protected by police in Germany and have been for many years amid concerns over far-right and Islamic extremism.

But Jewish leaders heading to Halle on Thursday were calling for greater action and security to prevent future attacks.

Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, called the absence of police guards outside the synagogue on holy day "scandalous." It took more than 10 minutes for police to arrive, he said.

A woman lights a candle at a makeshift memorial in Halle, Germany Oct 10, 2019, after two people were killed in a shooting.
A woman lights a candle at a makeshift memorial in Halle, Germany Oct 10, 2019, after two people were killed in a shooting./Hannibal Hanschke

"Now we need action not words," said Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, in a statement. "The fact that, 75 years after the Holocaust, such groups are gaining influence in Germany speaks volumes."

Lauder called on the implementation of "enhanced round-the-clock security" from the state along with the "launch a unified front against neo-Nazi and other extremist groups, which threaten our well-being."

The synagogue in Halle — a city of less than 300,000 people — has technological security measures but no permanent guard around the close, Max Privorozki, the head of the Jewish community in Halle said in video on Twitter. A volunteer guard was on watch when the shots rang out and police responded soon after.

People inside barricaded the doors with furniture for safe measure, Prizovorozki said, also calling on greater security for synagogues.

But American rabbinical student Jeremy Borovitz praised the synagogue leadership and security for keeping everyone safe.

"We have a lot to be grateful for today," Borovitz told German news outlet Deutsche Welle.

Andy Eckardt reported from Mainz, Germany, and Linda Givetash from London.