Hamburg trial unnerves Jewish community

Alleged attempted murderer had paper with a swastika in his pocket, and attacked someone who was identifiably Jewish - but attack not classed as antisemitic


The trial of a man accused of the attempted murder of a Jewish student began on Friday in Hamburg, where the local Jewish community is unnerved that the crime is not being prosecuted as an antisemitic act.

Grigoriy K., a 29-year-old German citizen born in Kazakhstan, left the 26-year-old student with serious injuries after beating him over the head with a short, collapsible shovel.

The incident took place October 4 in the vicinity of the Orthodox Hohe Weide synagogue in Hamburg. The student was making his way there on foot and was wearing a kippa at the time of the assault.

The attacker travelled to the synagogue by taxi, wore German military camouflage, carried a pocket knife as well as the shovel, had a piece of paper with a swastika drawn on it in his pocket, and attacked someone who was identifiably Jewish.

The president of Hamburg’s Jewish community, Philipp Stricharz, is in no doubt that the attack was antisemitic, telling the German state broadcaster NDR he considers the assault a threat to the entire Hamburg Jewish community.

That the assault took place five days prior to the first anniversary of the Halle synagogue shooting that left two bystanders dead on October 9, 2019 only seemed to confirm intent.

State prosecutors agreed in the days following the assault when they, too, suspected an antisemitic motive was at play.

Now, however, consider the overriding factor behind October’s assault to be the defendant’s mental illness.

In January a psychological assessment concluded that the accused suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and ‘delusional fear of persecution’. Therefore, he could not be deemed criminally responsible for the attempted murder and act of aggravated battery.

Grigoriy K. appeared in court on Friday wearing handcuffs and a dark hoodie pulled up over his head in order to give his name, date, and place of birth.

The court proceedings, which should wrap up by the end of March, will likely result in the defendant being institutionalised in a psychiatric hospital.

Due to the sensitive nature of the trial vis-à-vis Grigoriy K.’s mental illness, it will mostly take place behind closed doors, though a representative of the Hamburg Jewish community will be permitted to attend all stages of proceedings.

Protests marked the trial’s first day, as a small group of around 15 gathered outside the courthouse in Hamburg bearing a red-and-yellow banner reading: “Against all antisemitism.”

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