Far-right Halle attack suspect denies Holocaust in German court

A man accused of killing two people in an anti-Semitic attack in Germany last year was cut off during final testimony at his trial on Wednesday after he denied the Holocaust.

Far-right Halle attack suspect denies Holocaust in German court
Stephan Balliet on trial on December 9th. Photo: DPA

Stephan Balliet, 28, is accused of trying to storm a synagogue filled with worshippers in Halle on October 9, 2019 during Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar.

After failing to break down the door, he is said to have shot dead a female passer-by and a man at a kebab shop instead.

Balliet told the court in nearby Magdeburg that the proceedings against him were a “show trial” and denied the Holocaust, drawing shouts of protest from the co-plaintiffs on the benches.

Judge Ursula Mertens interrupted the speech and reminded him that denying the Holocaust is a criminal offence in Germany.

READ ALSO: What we know about the synagogue shooting in Halle

Balliet had previously denied the Holocaust during his trial, spouted racist and misogynist conspiracy theories and insisted that “attacking the synagogue was not a mistake, they are my enemies”.

Defence lawyer Hans-Dieter Weber said on Wednesday that Balliet's life in the run-up to the attack had been “characterised by constantly increasing social isolation”.

Weber disputed a psychiatrist's claim that Balliet could be held fully responsible despite a complex personality disorder, pointing to the defendant's increasing inability to interact with other people.

In his own closing statement three weeks ago, prosecutor Kai Lohse called for life in jail for Balliet and described the attack as “one of the most repulsive anti-Semitic acts since World War II”.

Lohse said Balliet had acted on the basis of a “racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic ideology” to carry out an attack against not only those he killed but “Jewish life in Germany as a whole”.

The events that unfolded were like a “nightmare”, he added.

“At the end of this nightmare, the perpetrator murdered two people and injured and traumatised numerous others.”

Balliet has been charged with two counts of murder and multiple counts of attempted murder in a case that has deeply rattled the country and fuelled alarm about rising right-wing extremism and anti-Jewish violence, 75 years after the end of the Nazi era.

The court is expected to hand down its verdict on December 21st.

READ ALSO: 'It doesn't change my feeling about Germany': Jewish community fearful but defiant after Halle attack

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Outrage in Germany after remains of neo-Nazi buried in empty Jewish grave

The burial of a known neo-Nazi's ashes in the former grave of a Jewish musical scholar has sparked outrage in Germany, and prompted Berlin's anti-Semitism official to file a criminal complaint.

Jewish scholar Max Friedlaender's grave stone in Stahnsdorf, just outside Berlin, on October 12th.
Jewish scholar Max Friedlaender's grave stone in Stahnsdorf, just outside Berlin, on October 12th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Jens Kalaene

The remains of the neo-Nazi were buried at the grave of Max Friedlaender in Stahnsdorf, just outside Berlin, with several figures from the extreme-right scene in attendance at the funeral on Friday.

Samuel Salzborn, anti-Semitism official for Berlin, said late Tuesday that he had filed a criminal complaint because “the intention here is obvious – the right-wing extremists deliberately chose a Jewish grave to disturb the peace of the dead by burying a Holocaust denier there”.

He added that “it must now be quickly examined how quickly the Holocaust denier can be reburied in order to no longer disturb the dignified memory of Max Friedlaender”.

Friedlaender died in 1934 – when Adolf Hitler was already in power – and was buried in the graveyard as his religion was given as ‘Protestant’ in the burial registration slip

His grave was cleared upon expiration in 1980 and opened up for new burials, under common practice for plots after a certain amount of time has passed.

Friedlaender’s gravestone however remains standing as the entire cemetery is protected under monument conservative rules.


The Protestant Church managing the graveyard voiced dismay at the incident.

In a statement, it said it had accepted the request for burial at the empty grave because “everyone has a right for a final resting place”.

“Nevertheless, the choice of the former grave of Max Friedlaender is a mistake. We are looking into this mistake now,” the church said in a statement.

At the funeral, a black cloth was laid over Friedlaender’s tombstone while wreathes and ribbons bearing the Nazi-era iron cross symbol were laid on the grave for the neo-Nazi Henry Hafenmayer.

Prominent Holocaust denier Horst Mahler, who has been convicted for incitement, was among dozens at the funeral.

Police deployed at the funeral were able to arrest a fugitive from the far-right scene there, German media reported.

Several war graves stand at the cemetery at Stahnsdorf, and these sites are known in far-right circles, the Protestant church administrating the graveyard admitted.

It added that it has worked closely with police to hinder several neo-Nazi marches there in recent years.

READ ALSO: German hotel workers probed after singer’s anti-Semitism complaint