BERLIN (AP) — German Chancellor Olaf Scholz strongly condemned a firebomb assault on a synagogue in Berlin on Wednesday, saying, “We will never accept when attacks are carried out against Jewish institutions.”
Assailants threw two Molotov cocktails early Wednesday at the synagogue in the center of the German capital, police said, as antisemitic incidents in the country have been rising following the violent escalation in the Middle East.
“Unknown persons threw two Molotov cocktails from the street,” the Kahal Adass Jisroel community wrote on X, formerly Twitter. Dozens of police officers were investigating in front of the synagogue in the city’s Mitte neighborhood, and the entire street next to the building was cordoned off and blocked for traffic.
Police said they were investigating “an attempted serious arson” in which two people approached the synagogue on foot at 3:45 a.m. and threw the firebombs, which burst on the sidewalk next to the building. The two people, their faces covered, ran away.
A couple of hours later, when police were already investigating the incident, a 30-year-old man approached the synagogue on a scooter, which he threw aside, and began running toward the building. When police officers detained him, he resisted and shouted anti-Israeli slogans.
“We are all shocked by this terrorist attack,” Germany’s leading Jewish group, the Central Council of Jews, said in a statement. “Above all, the families from the neighborhood around the synagogue are shocked and unsettled. Words become deeds. Hamas’ ideology of extermination against everything Jewish is also having an effect in Germany.”
The building complex of the Kahal Adass Jisroel community in the center of Berlin houses a synagogue, a kindergarten, a yeshiva school and a community center.
Police also said there were riots overnight between Muslim immigrants and police in the city’s Neukoelln and Kreuzberg neighborhoods and at Berlin’s landmark Brandenburg Gate in which several officers were injured.
Scholz, who was speaking to reporters during a trip to Egypt on Wednesday, said that Germany would not accept violent and antisemitic protests and that the protection of Jewish institutions would be further increased.
“It outrages me personally what some of them are shouting and doing, and I am convinced that Germany’s citizens are of the same opinion as me,” Scholz said.
“We stand united for the protection of Jews” in Germany, the chancellor added.
Shlomo Afanasev, a rabbi and long-time member of the Kahal Adass Jisroel community, said he was shocked by the attack.
“I go to the synagogue since 2006, and … I always go with my kippah on,” he told The Associated Press. “We felt until today very safe here. And never thought something like this could happen in this area. In the middle of Berlin.”
Afanasev added that he would wear a baseball hat from now on to cover his skullcap because “I don’t want to be openly Jewish … outside, because it doesn’t feel safe anymore. Unfortunately.”
Germans are particularly sensitive regarding attacks on Jews or Jewish houses of worship because of the country’s Holocaust past.
Almost 85 years ago, on Nov. 9, 1938, the Nazis, among them many ordinary Germans, terrorized Jews throughout Germany and Austria. They killed at least 91 people and vandalized 7,500 Jewish businesses. They also burned more than 1,400 synagogues, according to Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial.
The pogroms, which became known as Kristallnacht — the “Night of Broken Glass” — preceded the Holocaust in which the Nazis and their henchmen murdered 6 million European Jews.
Following Hamas’ brutal attack on Israel on Oct. 7 and the subsequent war in Gaza, police have increased security for Jewish institutions in Berlin and all over Germany. Still, Israeli flags that were flown as a sign of solidarity in front of city halls all over the country have been torn down and burnt. Several building in Berlin where Jews live had the star of David painted on doors and walls.
Associated Press video journalist Pietro De Cristofaro contributed to this report.