The US ambassador to Germany said 10 Americans were inside the synagogue in the eastern city of Halle that a gunman unsuccessfully tried to enter on Yom Kippur.
Ambassador Richard Grenell tweeted on Wednesday that “all are safe and unharmed.”
“We’ve made it out with our lives, in health and amazing spirits,” wrote Rabbi Rebecca Blady, the executive director of Hillel Germany, who was in the synagogue.
“For whatever reason, the man with the gun was stalled or prohibited from entering the synagogue. Gd counted us all there today, one by one, as deserving of life,” Blady wrote in a Facebook post.
It’s the end of Yom Kippur in Halle, Germany. We’ve made it out with our lives, in health, and amazing spirits – with…
“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. We prayed neilah here to end the day with extra fervor and heard the sound of the shofar,” she went on.
“We came here to bond with a small Jewish community, to feel the Divine energy of Yom Kippur, to sing and dance a little more than we might have otherwise. We are still here, trying to make sense of what happened and what is going on. Please know that we are safe.”
A heavily armed assailant, identified as Stephan Balliet, shot at the door of the synagogue as 70 to 80 people inside were observing Yom Kippur, Judaism’s holiest day.
Witnesses and German authorities say the gunman then killed two people while firing outside the building and into a nearby kebab shop.
Jewish community leader Max Privorozki, who was in the Halle synagogue, told the Stuttgarter Zeitung of the harrowing minutes as the site came under assault.
“We saw through the camera of our synagogue that a heavily armed perpetrator wearing a steel helmet and rifle was trying to shoot open our door.”
“We barricaded our doors from inside and waited for the police,” he said, adding that “in between, we carried on with our service.”
“I thought this door wouldn’t hold,” Privorozki said outside the damaged door.
“We saw everything, also how he shot and how he killed someone,” he said.
“That was a shock for us, that was Yom Kippur, all phones were switched off, we had to understand what was going on first — then switch on my phone and then call the police,” Privorozki said. “It was really panic but I have to say after that, when the police came, we continued with the worship service, that lasted another three hours, the synagogue worship service.”
The worshipers were brought out on buses several hours later. A video posted by a reporter for Israeli public broadcaster Kan showed people on a bus dancing, embracing and singing.
A worshiper who was at the synagogue, identified only as Christina, told Israel’s Kan radio that “it’s not easy being openly Jewish in Germany,” but “the main message is we can’t give up. We won’t give up on Jewish existence in Germany.”
The suspect, identified by German media as 27-year-old German Stephan Balliet, filmed the assault and posted the video online.
Police captured the suspect after a gun battle that left him injured.
Jewish leaders on Thursday demanded action from Germany to protect the community and face down resurgent right-wing extremism.
Among those in the synagogue were several Israelis who had turned up in Halle to join the small local population in celebrating Yom Kippur.