It was Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. At a synagogue in the city of Halle, Germany, 51 worshippers were assembled to observe the holiday.
Suddenly, a gunman banged on the synagogue doors, firing several rounds into the lock, hoping to gain access to the building. He even lit an explosive and stuck it onto the door jamb. The man had already killed two people: one at a nearby restaurant, and another one directly outside the synagogue.
But somehow — improbably — the door held. Horrified worshippers held each other and prayed as they watched the events unfold on the synagogue’s security cameras. The gunman eventually cursed in frustration and drove away.
His inability to open the door likely saved dozens of lives.
“We were very, very, very afraid,” Max Privorozky, the head of Halle’s Jewish community, told CNN, adding that the building had “good doors” that were “better than weapons.”
Police arrived about 10 minutes later and apprehended the suspected gunman. According to multiple news outlets, the heavily-armed gunman — allegedly Stephan Balliet — confessed and cited anti-Semitic and right-wing extremist motives for his actions. He live-streamed the attack. Authorities found explosives and ammunition in his vehicle.
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The US ambassador to Germany said 10 Americans were inside the synagogue during the attempted attack, reports the Times of Israel.
Rabbi Rebecca Blady was in the synagogue during the attack. She described her ordeal on a public Facebook post.
“We’ve made it out with our lives, in health and amazing spirits,” she writes. “For whatever reason, the man with the gun was stalled or prohibited from entering the synagogue.”
“Several hours later, with the threat of the gunman still at large, police units escorted us out of the synagogue and to a local hospital to check for signs of shock and trauma,” she wrote. “We are still here, trying to make sense of what happened and what is going on. Please know that we are safe.”