German shooter reportedly wanted to ‘eliminate’ Israel, other Mideast countries

Attacker who killed 10 in city of Hanau said to have published online manifesto calling for destruction of entire states in Asia, Africa, and killing their populations

Tobias Rathjen in a video posted online days before carrying out a deadly shooting in Hanau, Germany. (social media)
Tobias Rathjen in a video posted online days before carrying out a deadly shooting in Hanau, Germany. (social media)

The shooter who murdered 10 people in the German city of Hanau on Wednesday was a far-right extremist who reportedly said he wanted to exterminate people from Asia, North Africa and Israel.

Germany’s main Jewish organization expressed shock over the attack, which the country’s attorney general is investigating.

Police in Hanau said the shooter, identified in news reports as Tobias R., born in 1977, and his mother were found dead early Thursday morning in his home, not long after his reported shooting spree in two hookah bars. Among the dead were several Turkish nationals, as well as one Bosnian and one person from Poland.

The alleged shooter left behind a video and a 24-page manifesto in which he said certain peoples “must be completely destroyed,” according to German news reports. A spokesperson for the attorney general told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency he could not confirm the existence of a manifesto or video, but that further information would be released later on Thursday.

The manifesto calls for eliminating entire countries, including Israel, Egypt, Morocco, Turkey, Iran, Indian, Pakistan, Vietnam and the Philippines.

“I would eliminate all these people, even if we are speaking about billions of people. It has to be done,” the manifesto said, according to the Financial Times, which said it had seen the document.

A car with dead bodies stands in front of a bar in Hanau, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020. German police say several people were shot to death in the city of Hanau on Wednesday evening. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

The attack is the latest in a string of high-profile attacks by far-right extremists in recent months. Both the Yom Kippur attack on a synagogue in Halle last October and the assassination in June of a pro-refugee politician, Walter Lübcke, were carried out by assailants affiliated with the far right.

Responding to those attacks, German officials have said they are ramping up scrutiny of far-right groups. But they are seen as playing catchup after years of focusing anti-terrorism efforts largely on Islamic extremists.

In a statement Thursday morning, Josef Schuster, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said he worried about “the safety of minorities in Germany, and of those who are committed to helping them.”

Schuster and other prominent German Jews recently have said that an uptick in right-wing crimes and the rise of a far-right extremist political party, the Alternative for Germany, had made them consider leaving Germany.

German media said the shooter’s manifesto was written in January and intended as a “message to the German people” and a declaration of war. Their unconfirmed reports stated he blamed “certain individuals in my own country” for the fact that “we now have populations, races or cultures amongst us that are destructive in every way.”

Tobias R. also reportedly had posted a video on YouTube last week containing conspiracy theories about secret powers steering both the United States and Germany, and expressions of hate aimed at Arab and Turkish migrants.

Police stand guard near the scene of a shooting in central Hanau, Germany Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020. German police say several people were shot to death in the city of Hanau on Wednesday evening. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

Police did not know of any specific threats to Hanau’s Jewish population, Oliver Dainow, representative for the Jewish community of Hanau, told JTA Thursday morning.

The community, with some 200 members, already had beefed up security following last October’s violent attack outside the synagogue in Halle. Two passersby were killed in that attack, and the alleged perpetrator — who had tried and failed to break his way into the synagogue — was later arrested.

“For anybody who has these kinds of ideas in their head, Judaism is not far away,” Dainow told JTA.

While the most recent violent attacks have had a right-wing extremist background, Dainow said he could not point to one specific political direction as being most threatening. “There is a toxic environment in general,” he said.

In his statement, Schuster said German authorities had ignored warning signs for far too long. “It is high time that all democratic entities stand together against the threat of right-wing extremism and also of Islamist terror. Politicians, law enforcement agencies, the judiciary and civil society have to take responsibility.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who canceled travel plans in the wake of the Hanau shooting, said Thursday in a public statement: “Racism is a poison. Hatred is a poison. And this poison exists in our society and is responsible for far too many crimes.”

read more:
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed