Defendants apologize for setting fire to German synagogue

Cnaan Liphshiz

BERLIN (JTA) — Three defendants on trial for an arson attack on the Wuppertal Synagogue last July have apologized in court.

The defendants, ages 18, 24 and 29, are all of Palestinian descent. Testifying on Jan. 14 in the Wuppertal district court, which is located 330 miles west of Berlin, they said they had been angry about the war between Israel and Hamas is Gaza. But they did not want to hurt anyone, they said, according to a report in Die Welt newspaper. They apologized to the Jewish community.


Prosecutors have charged them with attempted arson for throwing firebombs at the entrance of the Bergischen Synagogue in the early morning hours of July 29. No one was injured, and damage was slight, as the fires extinguished by themselves. A neighbor had called police to report burning objects in the street next to the synagogue, which was dedicated in 2002. Wuppertal’s original synagogue was destroyed by the Nazis in 1938.

The men said they were drunk and had smoked marijuana at the time of the attack, celebrating the end of the month of Ramadan fasting. They had filled their empty beer bottles with diesel fuel, they said.

Die Welt reported that one defendant, speaking through  his attorney, said he “has no problem with Jewish people.”

But the head of the local Jewish community, Leonid Goldberg, told reporters that he did not believe this statement and saw the arson attack as a sign of “pure anti-Semitism.”

A verdict is expected on Jan. 28. The crime is punishable by a jail term of up to 15  years, news reports said.