Jewish man attacked by man wielding spade as he entered Hamburg synagogue

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Candles and flowers in front of the synagogue of Eimsbuettel in Hamburg - FOCKE STRANGMANN/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Candles and flowers in front of the synagogue of Eimsbuettel in Hamburg - FOCKE STRANGMANN/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Germany's leading Jewish group said Monday an attack on a Jewish student outside a synagogue "can only be classified as anti-Semitic."

"The situation that Jews increasingly become a target of hatred, must not leave anybody cold in a state of law like Germany," said Josef Schuster, the head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany.

The 26-year-old man, who was wearing a skullcap, was about to enter the synagogue grounds in the northern city of Hamburg on Sunday when he was hit in the head with what appeared to be a folding spade, police said. He was taken to the hospital with head injuries.

The suspected perpetrator, a 29-year-old German man of Kazakh origin wearing military style clothes, was arrested after the attack.

The attack came nearly a year after a heavily armed white supremacist targeted a synagogue in the eastern German city of Halle on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in Judaism. He killed a passer-by and a man at a nearby kebab stall after failing to force his way into the building.

A screenshot of a video shows the Halle attacker shooting with a rifle on Oct 9 2019  - ANDREAS SPLETT/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
A screenshot of a video shows the Halle attacker shooting with a rifle on Oct 9 2019 - ANDREAS SPLETT/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Security at Jewish institutions across Germany has been increased since the attack in Halle on Oct. 9, but Schuster from the Central Council of Jews said there had to be an investigation into how the security at the Hamburg synagogue could be further improved.

Jews were gathering Sunday to celebrate the holiday of Sukkot at the Hamburg synagogue, yet officers guarding the building were not able to detain the attacker before he approached his victim right in front of the synagogue.

Authorities said Sunday night that the Hamburg attacker seemed confused during a first interrogation by police. They have not yet released any details on his identity or his motive, but criminal police have taken over _ which is usually the case when a political or extremist motive is suspected.

The German news agency dpa also reported that a piece of paper with a Swastika on it was found in the pocket of the attacker.

A Hamburg rabbi said the city's community, was "very, very shocked" by the assault.

"The question is: What have we not learned since Halle?" Rabbi Shlomo Bistritzky said.

The assault comes amid heightened concern in Germany over rising anti-Semitism and far-right extremism. In 2019, the authorities registered an average of five anti-Semitic crimes per day in Germany. Those included physical attacks, property damage, threats, anti-Semitic propaganda and other acts of malicious behavior such as giving the stiff-armed Nazi salute.

"This is not an isolated case _ this is repugnant anti-Semitism and we must all stand up against it," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas tweeted Sunday night.

The country's justice minister called the attack "a horrible act of violence."

"The hatred against Jews is a disgrace for our country," Christine Lambrecht said in a statement. "We have to further confront agitation against Jews and be there more for the victims of hatred and violence."

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