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Attack on German Synagogue Coincides with Hitler’s Birthday

April 24, 2000
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Residents of an eastern German city held a vigil outside a small synagogue that was targeted with a Molotov cocktail on the anniversary of Hitler’s birthday.

Last Friday’s vigil, attended by Jewish and non-Jewish residents of the city of Erfurt, came a day after the first such attack on a German synagogue in five years.

German officials including German President Johannes Rau, condemned the attack and pledged to find the perpetrators as quickly as possible.

Erfurt Mayor Manfred Ruge said the attack was “like a slap in the face. I am deeply shocked.”

Wolfgang Nossen, a Jewish communal leader in the eastern state of Thuringia, criticized local politicians for not doing more to discourage right-wing extremism.

“Thuringia is a marching zone and a test ground for the neo-Nazis,” he was quoted as saying. “While their demonstrations are forbidden in other states, they are allowed in Thuringia.”

While welcoming the outpouring of support from the area’s residents, Nossen said, “I would prefer that such shows of sympathy weren’t necessary at all.”

German officials are still unsure who was responsible for the attack, which caused no injuries.

The synagogue was spared extensive damage because the homemade bomb was badly designed, police said.

Police are investigating neo-Nazi groups in the area. The Berliner Zeitung newspaper said police were also considering whether a left-wing group had planted the attack in order to discredit right-wing extremists.

A note found at the scene of the attack said, “This action is taking place on a purely anti-Semitic basis.”

It was signed with the name “Die Scheiteltraeger.” The phrase literally means “those who wear their hair parted,” and is sometimes used by left-wing activists as slang for “skinhead.”

Die Scheiteltraeger is not a known neo-Nazi group, police reported, who added that it was unusual for neo-Nazis to sign their name to an attack.

Police also found it unlikely that right-wing extremists would bungle the construction of a Molotov cocktail.

There have been an increasing number of attacks on Jewish cemeteries in recent years. The last attack on a synagogue took place in Lubeck in 1995.

Meanwhile, there were several other incidents linked to neo-Nazi celebrations of Hitler’s April 20 birthday.

Police arrested people singing right-wing extremist songs and hoisting Nazi flags in several cities.

Police also reported increased neo-Nazi activity in the former East Germany, where right-wing extremism and neo-Nazism have been on the rise since Germany reunified 10 years ago.

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