The attempt failed. And yet a young man from Franconia managed to reawaken a fear, especially among Jews, that they haven’t had for a long time: that synagogues in Germany could burn. Chief public prosecutor Andreas Franck was convinced of this in the trial of the attempted arson attack on the synagogue in Ermreuth in Upper Franconia.
The Bamberg district court followed the opinion of the anti-Semitism commissioner of the Bavarian judiciary and sentenced the 22-year-old defendant to two and a half years in prison on Friday for attempted serious arson and damaging property (Az.: 510 Js 18/23).
The presiding judge Matthias Bachmann attested to the defendant’s right-wing extremism that had existed for years. He was aware of the consequences of his act despite a significant alcohol consumption. The judgment should also send a clear signal.
The young man took the sentence impassively. He had declared in court that he had right-wing extremist sentiments and admitted to having smashed a window in the synagogue while drunk on New Year’s Eve 2023. A surveillance video shows how he then tried several times to light fireworks and throw them into the synagogue. When that didn’t work, he finally went on. There were no people in the building at the time.
The defendant’s parents compensated the Jewish community for the damage caused to the synagogue. The man admitted the act in the process and spoke of “disgraceful misconduct”. But he made no secret of his attitude.
Right-wing extremist and anti-Semitic content on mobile phones
Investigators also found numerous images, texts and pieces of music with right-wing extremist and anti-Semitic content on his cell phone. In one photo, the defendant stands in front of a Reich flag and shows the Hitler salute. The defendant said at the end of the trial that he had realized that his attitude in life would not get him any further and that he would be put in prison. He wants to stay away from his right-wing circle of friends and right-wing extremist media in the future.
The presiding judge did not find this credible. He does not assume that the accused will be able to do this in the foreseeable future. A suspended sentence, as demanded by the man’s defense attorney, is therefore not justifiable. The representative of the Munich Attorney General had demanded a three-year prison sentence.
Minister of State for Culture Claudia Roth (Greens) described the attempted arson as an “attack on our democracy”. The synagogue built in 1822 in the municipality of Ermreuth, which has around 900 inhabitants, is now an example of rural Judaism, which used to characterize many Franconian villages. (dpa)
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