A German Jewish man subject to a brutal attack has expressed his distress that a Hamburg court is refusing to view it as an antisemitic crime.
Andreas Roger, 61, had to undergo three operations and has been left blind in one eye after he was savagely attacked in broad daylight on Hamburg’s main shopping street by a group of young men.
He was part of a small group standing near the main railway station with an Israeli flag in a monthly pro-Jewish demonstration in September 2021 when a larger group of young men set upon then shouting anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish insults.
One of them, then aged 16, punched Roger in the face, smashing his glasses, and three bones.
As onlookers rushed to assist, the assailants fled on e-scooters. Roger was taken to hospital where doctors discovered that the glass from his shattered spectacles had entered an eye.
In an interview with the JC this week, he said that the Hamburg Regional Court had refused to condemn the incident as an anti-Jewish attack.
“My attacker has just been given a two-year suspended sentence. Clearly I would very much like this young man to go to prison at some point for what he has done to me,” Roger said.
“I am not satisfied at all that the court is refusing to classify this as an antisemitic crime. Of course it was.
Andreas Roger shows off bruising on his neck following the vicious attack (Photo: Handout)
"What else should it be called, when you are standing…with an Israeli flag and then a group of highly aggressive Syrian men come up to you shouting chanting, ‘Free Palestine’, ‘F*ck Israel’ and ‘F*ck Jews’.”
Roger attended the peaceful demonstration after Islamic fanatics in black uniforms had marched through the centre of Hamburg. Flanked by German police officers, they bore children’s coffins, shouted “death to Israel” and denounced Jewish people as Zionist “baby-murderers”.
He has been forced to take early retirement because of his injuries and said he was “frightened for my future”.
“I am at risk of going completely blind. This really affects me emotionally. It leaves me feeling helpless,” Roger added.
Glass from his shattered spectacles entered Andreas Roger's eye in the attack (Photo: Handout)
Police tracked down the suspect in Berlin, 180 miles from Hamburg, after analysing CCTV footage. He was taken into custody along with his younger brother, then 14. But because of the brother’s age, the court hearing in Hamburg was held behind closed doors, with even the city’s antisemitism commissioner denied access.
Dr Kai Wantzen, spokesman for the Regional Court of Hamburg, told the JC: “The defendant, who is now 18 years old, was sentenced to a two-year juvenile sentence on 12 May 2023 for aggravated assault in conjunction with insult, in two legally coincident cases.
“The imposition of the juvenile sentence is carried out with a so-called pre-probation, which means that the decision on whether the juvenile sentence is carried out, or suspended on probation, remains reserved, and is expected to be made in six months.”
Wantzen added that sentences for juveniles “obviously differ” from those issued to adults. The focus, he said, should be on “using education to help change attitudes” not “revenge and retribution”.
The culprit is now required to complete at least 15 sessions of an anti-violence and skills training course at a counselling centre for extremism prevention and deradicalisation. He must also perform 10 community service sessions.
Hamburg’s state commissioner for Jewish life and combating antisemitism, Stefan Hensel, said: “These people have not shown any remorse for their actions.”