An anti-Semitic gunman who shot two people dead in Germany after trying and failing to massacre worshippers inside a synagogue on Yom Kippur was a loner who lived with his mother, it has been revealed.
Stephan Balliet, 27, spent hours sat in front of his computer and was a user of Twitch – a live-streaming service popular with video gamers – where he shared footage his rampage on Wednesday in chilling echoes of the Chirstchurch mosque attack in New Zealand.
It was also revealed that Balliet posted a manifesto online a week ago where he specifically talks about attacking the synagogue in Halle while outlining his plan to kill ‘anti-whites’, including Jews.
In the wake of the attack, Jewish community leaders criticised German authorities for failing to do enough to combat rising anti-Semitism, while demanding round-the-clock security for Jewish sites in the country.
‘The fact that, 75 years after the Holocaust, such groups are gaining influence in Germany speaks volumes,’ Ronald Lauder, head of the World Jewish Congress, said.
The German synagogue attacker, named in German media as 27-year-old Stephan Balliet, in a live-stream of the attack
Face of the attacker: After the failed attack on the synagogue the shooters fled in a car, and then began attacking people at a nearby kebab shop (pictured, a gunman in the street near the shop)
A man and a woman were shot dead in an attack on a synagogue in Halle, central Germany, on Wednesday, while several others were injured. A gunman is pictured outside a kebab shop close to the synagogue
Jewish leaders say the attacker tried to get into the synagogue in Halle during prayers for Yom Kippur, but were stopped by ‘security measures’. A woman was then shot dead in the street outside (pictured, the attacker)
Armed police swarmed to the scene after the gunman opened fire. Witnesses said he used a submachine gun before throwing a grenade into a Jewish cemetery
A body lies in the street outside the synagogue, believed to be that of a female passerby who was gunned down when an attacker failed to get into the synagogue
A kebab shop where a man is thought to have been shot dead after the gunman threw an explosive at the entrance, then fired shots into the restaurant
An armed officer runs to his vehicle in Halle. Police say they have arrested one suspect and are looking for others
Policemen climb over a wall close to the site of a shooting in Halle an der Saale, eastern Germany
Special police forces officers armed with sub-machine guns patrol after the attack in Halle an der Saale on Wednesday
A police robot examines evidence at the scene of a shooting in Halle, eastern Germany, outside a synagogue. There are reports that grenades were used during the attack
German Chancellor Angela Merkel greets members of the Jewish community at a vigil in Berlin on Wednesday evening
People leave candles and flowers at a vigil in Halle this evening after a man and woman were shot dead earlier on Wednesday
Balliet was not a known extremist, Bild reported, and appears to have self-radicalised while living alone with his mother in Heldbra, a village around 25 miles from Halle, and spending lots of his time online.
He born in Eisleben, another village close to Heldbra and lived with both of his parents until they divorced when he was 14 years old
After that he went to live with his mother in Heldbra, which is where he was staying at the time of the attack.
Balliet graduated from high school and went on to study chemistry for two semesters at a higher education institution, but had to abandon his studies after a serious stomach operation.
It is not clear exactly what he did for work after quitting his studies, though a neighbour said he was working as a broadcasting technician at the time of the attack.
Video taken of Balliet during the attack suggests he was at least familiar with combat tactics, even if he had no formal training, as he can be seen taking shelter while firing his weapons and moving around as a solider might.
In footage that he streamed online, Balliet also claims he built his weapons himself, suggesting a familiarity with mechanical engineering, though he can also be heard lamenting the fact that his guns keep jamming.
In his manifesto, which was posted online as a PDF document, Balliet included pictures of the weapons and ammunition he used, according to extremism monitoring service SITE.
It also referenced his live stream as well as his objective to kill ‘anti-whites’, including Jews.
‘This manifesto document, which appears to have been created a week ago on October 1, gives yet more indication how much planning and preparation’ the gunman put into the attack, Rita Katz, director of SITE, said.
Forensic officers were working at the site where one of the victims was shot outside a synagogue on Wednesday
A bus whose destination board reads ‘evacuation’ is escorted by police past the site of a shooting in Halle on Wednesday
Armed police block access to a street near the scene of a shooting that has left two people dead
Jewish worshippers were sealed inside the synagogue for several hours while police cleared the surrounding area, before finally being allowed out. Pictured, a family celebrates their freedom
Local Jewish leaders said that an attacker had attempted to get into the synagogue but security measures ‘withstood the attack’ before he began shooting elsewhere
Armed police wearing masks and helmets seal off part of Halle near the scene of one of the shootings on Wednesday
While the attacker appeared to have been targeting the synagogue, Jewish community leaders said that none of the victims of the shooting appeared to be Jewish
Synagogue visitors sit in a bus after a shooting in Halle after police relaxed the cordon enough for them to leave
Shooter posts video on Amazon-owned Twitch
Social media firms faced anger and calls to ‘step up’ last after graphic footage of the anti-Semitic gun rampage in Germany was streamed live on Twitch and watched by thousands of people.
The 35-minute video was streamed live on Twitch, an Amazon-owned gaming site, and stayed there for another 30 minutes after the broadcast had finished before it was finally taken down.
In that time more than 2,000 people viewed the footage and some of them distributed it further via other social media networks.
The 35-minute video was streamed live on Twitch (file photo), an Amazon-owned gaming site, and stayed there for another 30 minutes after the broadcast had finished
The shooter had created his Twitch account two months before Wednesday’s Yom Kippur violence.
Last night there were calls for social media sites to take action to stop their platforms being used for violence.
‘Amazon is just as much to blame as Twitch for allowing this stream online,’ said Hans-Jakob Schindler of the Counter Extremism Project.
‘Online platforms need to step up and stop their services being used and in turn, parent companies need to hold them accountable.
‘This tragic incident demonstrates one more time that a self-regulatory approach is not effective enough and sadly highlights the need for stronger regulation of the tech sector.’
‘We are shocked and saddened by the tragedy that took place in Germany, and our deepest condolences go out to all those affected,’ a Twitch spokesman said.
‘Twitch has a zero-tolerance policy against hateful conduct, and any act of violence is taken extremely seriously.
‘We worked with urgency to remove this content and will permanently suspend any accounts found to be posting or reposting content of this abhorrent act.
‘Once the video was removed, we shared the hash with an industry consortium to help prevent the proliferation of this content.
‘We take this extremely seriously and are committed to working with industry peers, law enforcement, and any relevant parties to protect our community.’
German newspaper Die Welt reported that the text, which is about 10 pages long and written in English, specifically mentions the plan to attack the synagogue in Halle during Yom Kippur.
The rampage was streamed live for 35 minutes on Twitch, and eventually seen by some 2,200 people, the online platform said.
Police subsequently captured a suspect after a gun battle that left the man injured, though they have refused to say whether the man they captured is the same one seen online.
It is thought that Balliet tried and failed to get into the Halle synagogue where around 80 people were praying, before shooting through the doors, throwing explosives, and then laying bombs outside.
He then gunned down a woman in the street before driving around the corner to a kebab shop where he again opened fire, killing a man and wounding several others.
Video taken outside the shop shows a man wearing tactical gear and a helmet with a camera strapped to it climbing out of a car and firing several shots into the street with what appears to be an improvised shotgun.
He then walks up and down the road in full view of security cameras before fleeing in the direction of Wiedersdorf.
After arriving in that village he shot an electrician in a workshop, then stole a taxi and made his way on to the A9 motorway, skirting around the city of Leipzig, before turning on to the B91 towards Zeitz.
It was there that he was confronted by police and arrested after a brief gun battle, Bild reports.
Chancellor Angela Merkel joined a solidarity vigil at Berlin’s main synagogue on Wednesday, and firmly condemned the anti-Semitic rampage.
But Jewish leaders said that words were not enough, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu joining calls for German authorities to ‘act resolutely against the phenomenon of anti-Semitism’.
The head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany ripped into the authorities for failing to provide adequate security on such a key day.
‘It is scandalous that the synagogue in Halle is not protected by police on a holiday like Yom Kippur,’ said Josef Schuster.
‘This negligence has now been bitterly repaid.’
Ronald Lauder, who heads the World Jewish Congress, also stressed: ‘We need action not words’ as he called for round the clock security for Jewish sites.
‘We also need immediately to launch a unified front against neo-Nazi and other extremist groups, which threaten our well-being.
‘The fact that, 75 years after the Holocaust, such groups are gaining influence in Germany speaks volumes.’
In a copy of a 35-minute video obtained by AFP the gunman filmed himself launching into a diatribe against women and Jews, before carrying out the attack.
The video’s authenticity has been confirmed by the SITE monitoring group but not by police.
Rescued members of the Jewish community wait inside a bus near the scene of a shooting that has left two people dead
Police initially advised residents to shelter in their homes while they scoured the area for possible further attackers
Police officers with an armoured vehicle block a road in Halle, Germany
A helicopter takes off as police secure the area between Wiedersdorf and Landsberg near Halle, eastern Germany
An officer leads a bomb-sniffing dog across the street in Halle, following reports that grenades were thrown by a gunman who targeted a synagogue in the city
A helicopter lands as police secure the area between Wiedersdorf and Landsberg near Halle, eastern Germany. Gunshots were also reported in those two towns, which sit near Halle
Police officers walk on a road in Halle, Germany, as they secure the area following an attack outside a synagogue
Police guard a crime scene near a Synagogue after a shooting in Halle, Germany, which targeted Yom Kippur worshippers
The gunman also published an anti-Semitic ‘manifesto’ online more than a week ago, according to SITE director Rita Katz, who said the document showed pictures of the weapons and ammunition he used.
In the video, he was seen trying to force open the synagogue door before shooting dead a female passer-by. He then tried unsuccessfully to blast open the gate of the Jewish cemetery with explosives.
The man was later seen shooting at a patron of a kebab shop about 600 metres (yards) away from the synagogue.
Jewish community leader Max Privorotzki, who was in the Halle synagogue, told the Stuttgarter Zeitung of the harrowing minutes as the site came under assault.
‘We saw through the camera of our synagogue that a heavily armed perpetrator wearing a steel helmet and rifle was trying to shoot open our door.’
Between 70 and 80 people were in the synagogue then, Privorotzki said.
‘We barricaded our doors from inside and waited for the police,’ he said, adding that ‘in between, we carried on with our service.’
Armed officers help a woman to cross the street, stepping around shell casings which have been circled with spray paint on the floor
Police block the area around the site of a shooting in Halle an der Saale, eastern Germany
Police say they have arrested one person in connection with the attack, but told resident to shelter in place while the manhunt continues (pictured, an ambulance at the scene
Police secure the area after a shooting in the eastern German city of Halle
Among those in the synagogue were 10 Americans, as well as several Israelis, who had turned up in Halle especially to join the small local population in celebrating Yom Kippur.
‘We’ve made it out with our lives, in health and amazing spirits,’ wrote Rebecca Blady, a Jewish American community leader, who was in the synagogue.
Yom Kippur – Judaism’s holiest day
Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, is the holiest day in Judaism which is marked with an intensive 25-hour period of fasting and prayer.
The holiday began Tuesday night and was due to end late Wednesday. The day typically involves five prayer sessions, with followers encouraged to repent for sins.
It is celebrated throughout the Jewish world, even by typically secular members of the faith.
The owner of the kebab shop, Rifat Tekin, meanwhile described the gunman as ‘calm like a professional’.
‘Maybe he has done this many times. Like me making a kebab, he’s doing this – like a professional.’
Anti-terrorist prosecutors confirmed that they were taking over the probe given ‘the particular importance of the case’ which involved ‘violent acts that affect the domestic security of the Federal Republic of Germany’.
Wednesday’s shootings came three months after the shocking assassination-style murder of local pro-migrant politician Walter Luebcke in the western city of Kassel, allegedly by a known neo-Nazi.
Luebcke’s killing has deeply shaken Germany, raising questions about whether it has failed to take seriously a rising threat from right-wing extremists.
Investigators have been probing the extent of suspect Stephan Ernst’s neo-Nazi ties and whether he had links to the far-right militant cell National Socialist Underground (NSU).
Interior Minister Horst Seehofer last month warned of the rising danger of the militant far right, calling it ‘as big a threat as radical Islamism’.
A police officer stands guard next to a van close to which his colleagues are gathered near the site of the shooting in Halle
A police robot near the scene of a shooting that has left two people dead in Halle, Germany
Police forces walk along the wall to a Jewish cemetery near the scene of a shooting that has left two people dead in Halle
Armed officers were also deployed outside a synagogue in Dresden, around 90 miles from Halle, as a precautionary measure following the attack amid fears of copy-cats
Police officers secure a synagogue in Dresden, Germany, following a shooting 90 miles away in Halle
Police armed with sub-machine guns and wearing armour and helmets secure the area around a memorial commemorating the 1938 Crystal Night pogroms, close to the synagogue in Dresden as a precautionary measure