BERLIN — A heavily armed gunman with a live-streaming head camera tried to storm a synagogue in eastern Germany on Wednesday as congregants observed the holiest day in Judaism. Foiled by a locked door, he killed two people outside and wounded two others in an anti-Semitic spree that smacked of far-right terrorism.
Hours later the police announced the arrest of a suspect in the assault in the city of Halle, one of the most brazen in a string of recent attacks aimed at Jews in Germany. Police officials declined to confirm if the suspect was the gunman or whether he had any accomplices.
The methodology of the assailant bore a striking resemblance to the rampage by a far-right extremist against two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, more than six months ago, in which he broadcast his killings live on social media. Fifty-one people died in that attack.
Like the Christchurch killer, the Halle assailant recorded himself, in a 35-minute video of shooting, mayhem and hateful language. In accented English, he identified himself as Anon, denied the Holocaust, denounced feminists and immigrants, then declared: “The root of all these problems is the Jew.”
He then drove to Halle’s Humboldt Street synagogue, showing the arsenal of weapons in his car. While trying unsuccessfully to enter the synagogue, which was locked, he fired at a woman passing by who had spoken to him, hitting her in the back. She crumpled and he shot her several more times, the video showed.
After other failed attempts to enter the synagogue, including shooting at the door, he drove to a kebab shop and started shooting. Two men cowered behind a beverage machine, and he fired at them, the footage showed. He then shot at a pedestrian, drove his car closer to the kebab shop, shot at some other pedestrians, re-entered and shot the body of one victim several times. He returned to his car, shot over the roof, and drove off.
“Watching the video was beyond disturbing, but extremely characteristic of this new wave of far-right terror,” said Rita Katz, head of the SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks hate groups online.
The Halle attack was a “reminder how connected a far-right attack in Germany is to one in New Zealand, Pittsburgh, California or elsewhere,” Ms. Katz said. “They aren’t isolated events. They’re continuations of each other.”
A total of 51 congregants, including 10 young American visitors, were in the Halle synagogue during the assault, committed on Yom Kippur, the most solemn religious day for Jews. Officials said none were believed hurt.
“Based on the information that we have at this point, we must assume that at the least, this was an anti-Semitic attack,” said Horst Seehofer, Germany’s interior minister.
Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany expressed her condolences to the families of the victims and her solidarity with Jews around the world. She also took part in a vigil outside Berlin’s New Synagogue.
The assailant uploaded his video to Twitch, a live-streaming platform owned by Amazon that has struggled with moderating the real-time content that floods in from millions of active broadcasters. Alerted to the broadcast, Twitch scrambled to remove it and issue an apology, but not before right-wing sites had archived it. Some exalted the killer as a hero.
Megan Squire, a computer science professor at Elon University who studies online extremism, wrote in a post on Twitter that footage of the attack flowed through the messaging platform Telegram within 30 minutes of the shootings, reaching more than 15,000 accounts.
“We are shocked and saddened by the tragedy that took place in Germany today, and our deepest condolences go out to all those affected,” Twitch said in a statement. “Twitch has a zero-tolerance policy against hateful conduct, and any act of violence is taken extremely seriously.”
Amazon is a signatory of Christchurch Call, a pledge from online service providers including Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to prevent users from uploading violent content involving terrorists and extremists.
The police said earlier that at least two and possibly three gunmen had opened fire near the synagogue, but Mr. Seehofer spoke only of one.
Parts of Halle, the birthplace of Handel, were locked down by the police for hours in a search for an assailant or assailants. By late evening restrictions in the city were lifted, the train station reopened and traffic returned to normal.
“Our city was shaken by a terrible attack today,” said Bernd Wiegand, the mayor of Halle. “Two people lost their lives and two others are being treated in the hospital for their injuries.”
Germany’s foreign minister, Heiko Maas, deplored the assault on Twitter, saying, “We all must act against anti-Semitism in our country.”
Recent weeks have been punctuated by a number of small attacks on Jews in Germany, where anti-Semitism is an especially sensitive legacy of the Nazi era. This year, Mr. Seehofer condemned a jump in anti-Semitic attacks, ranging from vandalism to targeting individuals wearing visible emblems of their faith. After Wednesday’s shooting, police reinforcements were sent to synagogues across the country.
Germany’s federal prosecutor took over the investigation “on suspicion of murder under special circumstance,” said Dirk Hackler, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office, but he declined to elaborate.
The last time the federal prosecutor made such a move was after the killing of Walter Lübcke, a pro-refugee district representative and member of Ms. Merkel’s conservative party who was slain in June.
A witness to the shooting in Halle told the broadcaster MDR that he had seen a gunman dressed in military gear and armed with several weapons firing at the synagogue. Other news outlets reported that a hand grenade had been thrown into a Jewish cemetery nearby.
Prayers for Yom Kippur began at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday and had been scheduled to continue until 8:30 p.m. It is the most solemn day in the Jewish calendar, and services brought many people to the temple.
Max Privorozki, a leader of the Jewish community in Halle, told The Jewish Forum for Democracy that despite repeated requests for the police to provide security at the synagogue, there was no one outside when the attacker tried to force his way in. It took 10 minutes for the police to respond, he added, when he called for help.
Police officials in Halle could not confirm whether there had been a security detail outside the synagogue, as is common in many of Germany’s larger cities.
“The attacker fired several times at the door and threw petrol bombs, firecrackers or other explosives to try to force his way in,” Mr. Privorozki was quoted by Der Spiegel as saying. “But the door stayed shut — God protected us.”
Attacks by White Extremists Are Growing. So Are Their Connections.
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Immediately after the shooting, television footage showed police officers wearing helmets and carrying automatic weapons as they patrolled streets around the synagogue that had been sealed off with red-and-white tape. Other officers used a ladder to climb over a high brick wall surrounding the cemetery.
Anti-Semitic crime and hate crimes targeting foreigners have both increased almost 20 percent in Germany over the past year, according to official figures published in May. The data included a wide range of offenses, including assault, insults, graffiti, hateful postings online and the use of Nazi symbols.
Many Jewish institutions in Germany, including synagogues, schools and other cultural centers, are guarded by the local police. In Berlin, which has the country’s largest Jewish population, the police have also provided security to cafes, restaurants and shops that are owned and frequented by Jews.
Earlier this year, the country’s top official for efforts against anti-Semitism warned that Jews should not wear their skullcaps everywhere in public.
Halle, with a population of 230,000, is 100 miles southwest of Berlin and is the largest city in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt. It boasts Gothic and Renaissance architecture, but today is a regional seat of trade and commerce.
As news of Wednesday’s shooting spread, condemnation and concern flowed in from across Europe. In Brussels, the president of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, expressed his condolences and called for a moment of silence for the victims. The Anti-Defamation League in New York called the attack “heartbreaking” and “devastating,” and thanked those in law enforcement for keeping “our houses of worship and communal institutions safe and secure on this day and every day, in the U.S. and around the world.”
The United Nations secretary general, António Guterres, said in a statement that he regarded the events in Halle as “yet another tragic demonstration of anti-Semitism — perpetrated on the holy day of Yom Kippur — which needs to be fought with the utmost determination.”