Axe attack in Germany demands ‘early warning system,’ say Jewish leaders


German Jewish leaders warned that all German institutions, not just Jewish ones, should take extra precautions against terrorism in the wake of an ISIS-inspired axe attack on a train in Wurzburg.

“(We) are just as concerned about such attacks as are non-Jews here,” Josef Schuster, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, told JTA following the Monday night attack, which left five people injured, including four members of one family visiting from Hong Kong. Two of them are in serious condition. The perpetrator, a 17-year-old Afghan refugee, was shot dead by police.

The gruesome attack shows that an “early warning system” and cooperation from Muslim groups in Germany are urgently needed to root out Islamic extremism, Charlotte Knobloch, head of the Jewish Community in Bavaria and Munich, said in a statement issued Tuesday.

Such terrorism “points to the urgent need to focus on integration” of refugees from Muslim lands, said Schuster, who lives in the Bavarian city of Wurzburg. More than one million people from war-torn countries — mostly Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq — have sought asylum in Germany in the past year.

ISIS on Tuesday identified the perpetrator as Muhammad Riyad. Riyad, who reportedly had shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is Great) before launching the attack, also had sent out a video claiming his allegiance to ISIS and his anger with Western coalition attacks on the Islamist group’s strongholds.

Deidre Berger, head of the American Jewish Committee’s Berlin office, said there was particular concern about “more than 100,000 unaccompanied minors” among the new refugees “whose lives are uprooted” and who have expectations of life in the West that may not be fulfilled.

“They are highly susceptible to the easy answers of radical Islamist ideology, which empowers them to be a hero instead of an underdog,” Berger said. “As we see in this most recent act of terrorism, it is not just the Jewish community that needs to be vigilant against future acts of terror.”

Though this attack might highlight fears about radical Islamists slipping in with genuine refugees, “It’s not OK to blame or fear all refugees because of the act of one,” said Schuster, who has backed Chancellor Angela Merkel’s safe haven policy while urging vigilance.

Man with axe attacks passengers on German train


This is a developing story

A man with an axe attacked passengers on a train near the city of Wuerzburg in the southern German state of Bavaria late on Monday.  

Several people were critically wounded, a police spokesman said.

The attacker was a 17-year-old Afghan refugee who was living in the town of Ochsenfurt, according to Bavaria's interior minister.

The Bavarian Interior Ministry confirmed early on Tuesday that the attacker was shot dead by police.

Joachim Herrmann, the Bavarian Interior Minister,  told public broadcaster ARD that the young man appeared to have made his way to Germany as an unaccompanied minor.

Herrmann declined to speculate about the motive for the attack.

German prosecutors say doctors did not hasten Demjanjuk’s death


Nazi war criminal John Demjanjuk's death was not hastened by medication administered at a nursing home in Bavaria, prosecutors said.

Ulrich Busch, an attorney for Demjanjuk, who died in March, filed a complaint in May with German prosecutors asking them to open an investigation of five doctors and a nurse, alleging that the pain medication they gave to Demjanjuk added to his kidney problems.

The investigation of the allegations was closed after no evidence indicated that the doctors made an error, The Associated Press reported Tuesday.

The complaint had said that a specific pain medication, common in Germany but banned in the United States, led to Demjanjuk's death as he awaited an appeal of his conviction last year by a Munich court for his role in the murder of 27,900 people at the Sobibor camp in Poland.

German rabbi criminally charged for performing circumcisions


A rabbi in Bavaria has been slapped with criminal charges of committing bodily harm, in the first known case to arise from an anti-circumcision ruling in May.

The charge against Rabbi David Goldberg, who is a mohel, or ritual circumciser , means that the May decision in the state of Hesse has been applied in Bavaria, confirming the fears of Jewish leaders here that the local ruling would have a wider impact.

Goldberg, 64, a Jerusalem native living in Hof Saale in Bavaria, told JTA he had not yet received a notice from the court. He said he would decide what to do after he had seen it. The charge was confirmed to the main Jewish newspaper of Germany, the
Juedische Allgemeine Zeitung.

The rabbi also said he did not know what act the charges could refer to, since he has not performed any circumcisions recently in Germany. “Only abroad: in Budapest, in the Czech Republic, in Italy,” he said.

Still, the rabbi said no secular ruling would stop him from performing brit milah in the country. If a family in Germany came to him with a request to perform a circumcision, Goldberg said he would ask the Central Council of Jews in Germany what to do. “A few weeks ago, they said, ‘You can continue,’” he said.

Goldberg said regional journalists had informed him of the suit, saying it had been filed by a doctor in the state of Hessen who had gathered 600 signatures on an open letter to German Chancellor Angela Merkel that supported the anti-circumcision ruling. Merkel and the German parliament have said, however, that they intend to push for legislation to ensure that Jews and Muslims have the right to carry out the religious ritual.

The original ruling in May related to a Muslim family in Cologne whose son suffered complications after his circumcision. The court found that non-medical circumcision of a minor is a criminal act. Although the ruling was local, it has alarmed traditional Jews and Muslims across the country. Virtually all Jewish denominations have joined in condemning the ruling. This week, Israel’s chief Ashkenazi rabbi, Yonah Metzger, was in Berlin for high level meetings on the issue.

Meanwhile, anecdotal evidence shows that Jewish ritual circumcisions continue to be performed in Germany despite the ruling’s chilling effect. Although several hospitals have declared moratoriums on the practice for now, brit milah is being performed in private homes and in synagogues.

The head of the Conference of European Rabbis, Moscow Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, said of the lawsuit: “This latest development in Hof, Germany, is yet another grave affront to religious freedom and underlines the urgent need for the German government to expedite the process of ensuring that the fundamental rights of minority communities are protected.”