The ongoing trial reveals the accused supported GI’s ideas and would have joined the group but thought non-violence didn’t work

Yesterday the trial of the accused terrorist attacker in Halle in October 2019 began. He has been charged with 2 cases of murder, 68 cases of attempted murder, and extortion under threat of force for stealing a taxi at gunpoint as he fled. The 68 comprise those observing Yom Kippur inside the synagogue, plus passers-by and police officers.

Whilst ongoing, reports from the courtroom and those provided to HOPE not hate by Sleeping Giants France, indicate that the accused had his worldview inspired by identitarianism, followed others in thinking that violence was the only answer to its creed, and saw broadcasting this online as crucial for inspiring others.

Generation Identity: Accused would have joined but “pacific methods are useless”

The accused is reported as referencing the identitarian group, Generation Identity (GI), when justifying his attack. The German branch of GI has been especially active in Halle, where for a long time they have operated a key organising base. However, while indicating support for GI he stated that he did not join them as “the surveillance of GI by the [Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution] is proof that pacific methods are useless”.

As HOPE not hate have previously noted, GI tell their supporters to get active or be “replaced” by migrants, hence it’s no surprise some take this as a call to violent action if they see non-violence as ineffective.

The accused reportedly repeatedly mentioned the identitarian conspiracy theory of the ‘Great Replacement’. As HOPE not hate and others have highlighted, the Christchurch attack (and many subsequent attacks) have been influenced by the identitarian ideology and its fears of a ‘Great Replacement’ of white Europeans by non-white, and particularly Muslim, immigrants.

As Deutsche Welle adds, the accused for the first time on record told the court that he was directly inspired by the Christchurch attacks of March 2019, which he saw as an example of “the white man defending himself”. The Christchurch attacker was later revealed to have been in contact before the attack with GI and donated money to the network.

In what reads as an echo of the same identitarian ideas that fuelled the Christchurch attack, the accused in Halle described Muslim refugees as alleged “conquerors from the Islamic world” and that his country is being “colonized by people”, placing him “under threat”. Deutsche Wellereported that the accused believed that the customer in the kebab shop who he killed was a Muslim.

Attacking a synagogue, his worldview was, of course, deeply entwined with antisemitism also. As Deutsche Welle reports, according to an examination by psychiatrist Norbert Leygraf, the accused’s initial plan was “to break into the synagogue and kill as many Jewish people as possible”. Sleeping Giants report further that the accused has stated that he planned to kill “Jews, Muslims and Blacks” for months.

The accused revealed that the so-called “refugee crisis” radicalised him. The judge is reported to have challenged him on this, highlighting that “Nothing changed for you” with the influx of refugees into Europe, “You sat in front of your computer, your mother in the next room.” The accused replied that “when such people come, people like me are pushed out of society”, yet the judge drew attention to the fact that the accused was “already outside of society – you had no plans, no goals, this has nothing to do with refugees”.

GI have made fearmongering about refugees coming into Europe a central plank of their propaganda since the group was created in 2012, later culminating in the widely-reported ‘Defend Europe’ campaign in 2017.

“Gamification” of the killings planned

As we highlighted at the time, the Halle attack exemplified the growing trend of ‘gamified’, live streamed terror. Video of the attack was filmed from a helmet mounted camera and live streamed on the popular game streaming platform Twitch. One page of a document published online before listed a number of “achievements” which would be gained if a specific weapon was used, if people of different religions were killed and even points for targeting children.

The importance of this for the accused was highlighted by a statement he has given so far. As Deutsche Welle report, realising that his Twitch account had been suspended, he told the court “That’s bad, because the stream was more important than the attack itself”.

When asked why he live streamed it, the accused replied “because it’s important to show others that they are not alone”. To this end, he also reportedly hoped that his full name would be used in news reports and unpixelated images of his face published alongside this.

This confirms a trend that my colleague, Patrik Hermansson, highlighted following the Christchurch attack: “Far-right terrorists integrating something akin to a social media strategy into their attacks has become commonplace.” As Patrik noted, the Christchurch attacker “directly and indirectly encouraged others to do what he did, aiming to be a catalyst the same way he himself had been inspired by far-right terrorists in Europe and North America.”

Again appearing to echo the Christchurch attackers outlook, the accused told the court in Halle, “One can not accomplish a lot, even if you are efficient. But you can reach others who want to fight”.

Questions remain

Given the accused has admitted an interest at one point in joining GI, the authorities ought to investigate whether there was any contact made with the German or additional international branches of the movement, or funds directed to them as with the Christchurch terrorist.

Hopefully we will also see probing into the accused’s explicit anti-feminist statements made during the live stream and his familiarity with the online communities tied to this. As we noted at the time, the attacker had a clear familiarity with the ‘incel’ subculture, for example.

So far, we know only that he regrets killing a woman passing by the synagogue who he called a “pig”, but only because he didn’t mean to shoot “at a lot of whites”, as Deutsche Wellereports him saying.