US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged the world to unite in the fight against antisemitism during a visit to the Halle synagogue on Thursday evening, the site of a deadly antisemitic terror attack on Yom Kippur.
“I wanted to come here and share America’s sympathy for what took place here, and remind the world that antisemitism is not just limited to certain places,” said Pompeo at the synagogue, expressing solidarity with the local community and responding to rising antisemitism in Germany.
“You can find it everywhere; you can find it in [the United States],” he said, adding that US President Donald Trump had made “stamping out” global antisemitism one of his top priorities.
“The world must work together against this threat and this vicious attack against religious freedom, and in particular the religious freedom of the Jewish people.”
The ceremony, which took place amid a heavy police presence in the city, was also attended by German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog. The leaders laid a wreath outside the synagogue, near the location where one of two passersby were killed.
“There is no question as to the rampant rise of antisemitism across Europe,” said Herzog, who spent much of the day meeting and listening to the concerns of local community leaders in Berlin and Halle.
“It’s truly a miracle that the Jews of Halle didn’t suffer a massacre on Yom Kippur. Global leaders must unite in a relentless fight against antisemitism – by protecting Jewish institutions, and most importantly, by means of education and firm legislation against hate crimes.”
Increased attention has been paid to surging antisemitism in Germany since the deadly terror attack in Halle, 170 km. southwest of Berlin, on October 9.
Despite being heavily armed, neo-Nazi perpetrator Stephan Balliet failed to gain access to the synagogue, thwarted by a heavy door and security measures funded by the Jewish Agency and implemented by the local community.
While dozens of worshipers were spared, Balliet shot dead two people: 50-year-old Jana Lange and 20-year-old Kevin S., outside the synagogue.
According to data published by the German Interior Ministry, incidents of antisemitism increased significantly in the country last year.
Antisemitic events soared by 19.6%, the ministry said, from 1,504 in 2017 to 1,799 in 2018. Approximately nine out of 10 antisemitic and anti-foreigner crimes were identified by authorities as committed by a right-wing perpetrator.
Anastasia Pletoukhina, who was at the Halle synagogue with her husband Valentin Lutset when the attack occurred, said the events of Yom Kippur were unthinkable for German Jews such as herself, but that “the government and the city did not provide us” with the necessary security measures.
“For Halle and other German Jewish communities, the attack was the time where we really understood that we can’t rely on our beloved state for the question of security; we can’t rely on our beloved state in this situation,” said Pletoukhina.
“We need to rely on other resources and join forces to make our communities safe,” she said, adding that it took 15 minutes for the police to arrive at the scene.
“I am very happy that we had the strength within the community to bring us to safety and remain calm. We were not well trained to face this kind of attack,” she added, describing her survival as a miracle.
Prior to the synagogue ceremony, Herzog launched the Nevatim conference, a Jewish Agency educational program supported by the Genesis Philanthropy Group (GPG). The program fosters educational initiatives advanced by young German Jews, including representatives from the Halle community.
“Gathering here today, we cannot ignore the renewed threat to the Jewish future – not just in Germany, but elsewhere – in places and countries where we could not imagine the resurgence of violent antisemitism and murderous hate,” said Natalie Schneiderman, GPG director of global grantmaking.
“I am certain that Nevatim, its participants, organizers and educators will remain a true and courageous vanguard of resurgent Jewish life,” she said.