On Wednesday morning, it was reported that an unnamed shooter fatally shot two people outside of a synagogue in Halle, Germany. Shortly after the attack, the alleged shooter was apprehended by German authorities and brought into custody. Police have also reported that shots were fired in the nearby town of Landsberg, though it’s unclear whether the two attacks were connected.
Because the shooting took place on Yom Kippur, the most holy day of the year for Jews, many initially assumed the attacker was a far-right white extremist, and the German interior minister has confirmed that the shooting is currently being investigated as “an anti-Semitic attack.” While we know little about the motives behind the attack or whether he was a regular poster on boards like 8chan and 4chan, which have played a role in radicalizing previous mass shooters like those behind the Christchurch and El Paso attacks, there are a few indications that this appears to have been the case.
Perhaps most significantly, the shooter livestreamed footage of the attack on the gaming platform Twitch, donning a helmet-mounted camera for this specific purpose. In the footage, the alleged shooter rants about women, mass immigration, and Jewish people, alluding to his belief that the Holocaust was a hoax and telling the camera that “feminism is the cause of declining birth rates in the West, which acts as a scapegoat for mass immigration, and the root of all these problems is the Jew.” He then dons a helmet with a camera mounted on it to film the attacks and grabs weaponry from a duffel bag. The video shows him attempting to open a synagogue door and failing to do so before opening fire on a passerby and then heading to a nearby kebab shop, where he again opens fire.
In a statement to Rolling Stone, a spokesperson for Twitch said that the video had been removed from the website, though it was still trying to figure out how the video had been uploaded to the platform in the first place. “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 has a zero-tolerance policy against hateful conduct, and any act of violence is taken extremely seriously. We worked with urgency to remove this content and will permanently suspend any accounts found to be posting or reposting content of this abhorrent act.”
By livestreaming the attack, the shooter was apparently trying to mimic the actions of the shooter who also livestreamed his attacks on a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand last spring. The attacks, which took the lives of 51 people, were streamed on Facebook Live, prompting the platform to scramble to remove the footage. In both attacks, the shooters livestreamed from helmet cams, giving their attacks the appearance of a “first person shooter video game,” as described by journalist Robert Evans of the investigative platform Bellingcat.
Such efforts are part of far right white nationalists’ collective contributions to “the gamification of mass violence,” Evans wrote in the wake of the El Paso shooting, in which the accused shooter also posted a hate-filled manifesto prior to the attack. On forums like 8chan and 4chan, Evans wrote, far-right extremists detail their obsession with “high scores,” a meme alluding to the number of fatalities involved in an attack, as well as the livestreaming of attacks and the selection of “soundtracks” to accompany them. “What we see here is evidence of the only real innovation 8chan has brought to global terrorism,” Evans writes, concluding that the ultimate goal of such violence is to garner attention and inspire copycat attacks. While police have yet to confirm that the Halle shooter had any links to chan culture, in the video he refers to himself as “anon,” a term often used by anonymous posters on forums like 4chan and 8chan.
In light of the previous shootings at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and an attack on a synagogue in Poway, California, the attack on Halle marks the third attack on a synagogue this year.