German investigators said Monday they were probing an attack on a Jewish student outside a synagogue in the northwestern city of Hamburg as attempted murder with anti-Semitic intent.
The 26-year-old student was badly injured on Sunday by a man who repeatedly struck him on the head with a shovel outside the synagogue, where the Jewish community was celebrating Sukkot.
The suspect, a 29-year-old German man of Kazakh origin, was arrested by police officers who were assigned to protect the synagogue.
Dressed in combat fatigues, the suspect had a piece of paper with a hand-drawn swastika in his pocket, said police and prosecutors in a statement.
“The current assessment of the situation suggests that this is an anti-Semitic-motivated attack,” they said, adding that investigators are treating the case as an “attempted murder with grievous bodily harm.”
The victim was wearing a kippa at the time of the attack, The New York Times reported.
There was no official update on the victim’s condition Monday, but local daily Hamburger Abendblatt reported that while the man was in intensive care, his life was not in danger.
Jewish leaders and top German politicians led condemnation of the attack, which came a year after two people were shot dead by an attacker who tried and failed to storm a synagogue in the eastern city of Halle during Yom Kippur. A neo-Nazi suspect is currently on trial for the crime.
“Once again, we have to witness a terrible act of violence against a Jewish citizen,” said Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht.
“The hatred against Jews is a disgrace for our country,” she said, stressing that Germany has to stand up more firmly against victims of hate and violence.
The attack was denounced by Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who tweeted, “This is not an isolated case — this is repugnant anti-Semitism and we must all stand up against it.”
Ronald Lauder, leader of the World Jewish Congress, also demanded action.
The attacker “must be held responsible as must all who engage in any expressions of hate or intolerance,” he said.
Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said: “No one in the country should be blasé about a situation where Jews here are repeatedly the target of hate.”
He added that the case shows that security measures may have to be improved.
Last month Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke of her shame over rising anti-Semitism in Germany, as the Jewish community warned that coronavirus conspiracy theories were being used to stir up anti-Jewish hatred.
Anti-Semitic crimes have increased steadily in Germany in recent years with 2,032 anti-Semitic offences recorded in 2019, up 13 percent on the previous year.