The trial of the 28-year-old started almost two hours late because of the high level of media coverage and strict control over entry. Journalists and viewers eventually filled the large courtroom with a low ceiling. A glass pane separates them from lawyers, judges and the accused. Many of those who persisted in the synagogue during the attack had also come to Magdeburg. There are a total of 43 co-plaintiffs.
Failed mass murder
Stephan B. is charged with double murder – of 40-year-old Jana L. and 20-year-old Kevin S. – and attempted murder in 68 cases. Fifty-two people were gathered in the Halle synagogue when he shot the locked door to enter the building. Unsuccessful. During his two-hour escape attempt, he shot a number of other passers-by and police officers. He is also accused of attempted extortion with death and severe predatory extortion. During his escape, the assassin had stolen a taxi at gunpoint.
At this door, the assassin had tried to forcefully enter the synagogue
The trial against him began after the charges were read with a lengthy exchange between the accused and the judge about Stephan B.’s past. When asked if he had friends, he replied, “No.” Did he belong to a sports club? “No.” What were his interests? “The Internet.” What did he like about it? One can talk freely, Stephan B. “Didn’t he have this possibility in the real world?” Not in Germany, “says the accused.
Racism in court too
He has a good relationship with his sister, even though social contacts have steadily decreased over time. When asked by the judge why these contacts had subsided, he replied, as he had done to other questions before, that this was not important. Stephan B. said he had spent six months in the Bundeswehr, which was “not a real army”. If he could, he went home on the weekends.
Then he described his short attempt to study chemistry. He dropped out of college because of an illness that he didn’t want to go into in detail. Did he have other plans? Stephan B. laughs and says no. “After 2015, I decided to stop doing anything for this company,” he added. Since he was also racist, the judge reprimanded him and threatened to exclude him from the proceedings.
The perpetrator’s confession
Hardly any trial observer doubts that Stephan B. is found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment. The perpetrator filmed the entire robbery with a camera attached to his helmet and broadcast the video live on the online platform Twitch. Therefore, according to the indictment, he is also accused of sedition.
The perpetrator confessed shortly after his arrest and showed no remorse for his actions. In fact, according to an investigation by the forensic psychiatrist Norbert Leygraf, Stephan B. only regretted that his actual plan to enter the synagogue and kill as many Jews as possible had failed.
“Complex personality disorder”
Leygraf’s 100-page report, about which “Der Spiegel” reports in detail, showed that Stephan B. had a “complex personality disorder” with some features of autism, but this did not affect his criminal responsibility. The perpetrator apparently spoke emotionlessly about his two murders.
Strict controls at the entrance to the negotiation room
The psychiatrist, who interviewed the defendant three times, also found that he had been obsessed with anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and self-made weapons for years. His defense lawyer, Hans-Dieter Weber, described Stephan B. as intelligent, eloquent and socially isolated.
“No stage for the perpetrator”
People in solidarity with those affected, survivors and victims have gathered in front of the courthouse in Magdeburg. The rally under the motto “Solidarity with those affected – no stage for the perpetrator” is intended to show the co-plaintiffs that they are not alone, as the organizers, including the Working Group on Anti-Racism Magdeburg, made clear.
The 43 admitted co-plaintiffs hope above all that during the proceedings in Magdeburg, the state capital of Saxony-Anhalt, the background to the violence committed by the 28-year-old accused will be clarified. In particular, they hope for answers to the question: How could the perpetrator become so radicalized? How could someone develop so much hatred “for the people they don’t even know,” asked Juri Goldstein, lawyer for visitors to the Jewish community in Halle. Co-plaintiff Christina Feist explained that there is an everyday anti-Semitism in Germany. She called for civil courage. It was high time “that we finally recognize this shameful truth,” she said in Magdeburg. She was in the synagogue herself on the day of the attack.
Religious representatives demanded a severe punishment for the Halle assassin shortly before the trial began. “The man should be punished with all the harshness of the law,” said former President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Charlotte Knobloch. At the same time, she advocated more democracy education in schools and kindergartens. The President of the Central Council, Josef Schuster, called for children and young people in particular to be better informed about Judaism and thus to prevent anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism is no longer, but rather more visible, he said in the SWR.
The chairman of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, Aiman Mazyek, emphasized that he also expected a “tough and groundbreaking” judgment. “It should make it clear that racism is not an opinion – it kills in the worst case,” he told the editorial network Germany. “I also wish this as a signal to the minorities and diverse, peaceful groups in Germany.”