Halle Synagogue shooting survivor: 'I really lost trust in the police'

Rabbi Rebecca Blady was present at the time of the shooting, and is now a co-plaintiff in the upcoming trial.

People place candles at central market square in Halle, Germany October 10, 2019, after two people were killed in a shooting (photo credit: REUTERS/FABRIZIO BENSCH)
People place candles at central market square in Halle, Germany October 10, 2019, after two people were killed in a shooting
Rabbi Rebecca Blady, a survivor of the shooting at the Halle Synagogue on Yom Kippur in 2019,  gave an interview last week to the German news outlet Belltower.News in which she described the events of that day and her feelings on the upcoming trial for the shooter Stephan Balliet.
In the interview, Blady described the day of the attack, the initial confusion after hearing gun shots and her opinion on the police response.
"When we heard that an attack was taking place and someone had been shot in front of the synagogue, we were hiding upstairs in the flat in which Jeremy, my daughter and I were staying at – right above the synagogue. There was a lot of confusion as to what was actually happening," Blady told Belltower.News.
Noting the faulty response of the German police, in which all Jewish facilities in Germany are entitled to police protection under the responsibility of state police forces, Blady said following a confirmation that it was safe to leave the synagogue that "my daughter and her babysitter walked out of the same door that was shot at 45 minutes later. After we were evacuated by the police, we were supposed to get on a bus that would bring us to a hospital. The police wouldn’t let my daughter on the bus because they claimed the bus was only for people that had been in the synagogue."
"At this point, I really lost trust in the police," she added. "My husband Jeremy had to insist that he wouldn’t get on the bus until we had our daughter with us. I was terrified of also being separated from him, but that was the only way we could put pressure on the authorities to get our daughter from behind the police cordon onto the bus. When we arrived at the hospital, the staff there were amazing. "
When asked about the attack today, and her feelings on the matter, Blady said "it took me some time to figure out how the shooting affected me exactly. I haven’t been as present as I usually am with others, my friends or my community. I have done a lot of work to integrate this memory into my own life. A particular turning point came within the last couple of months. I now feel energized and motivated to tell the story right – and to make sure everyone who was there feels able and safe to do so as well. I want us to be allies to one another in the process."
"Over time I also realized, that his attack has deeply affected our Jewish community in Berlin, too. It’s important that the story of this attack includes the Jewish perspective and that this perspective isn’t edited out in any way. Going to trial and being represented as a co-plaintiff for me means entering the next phase of healing," the Rabbi added.
The trial of the neo-Nazi gunman Balliet is set to begin this week.  If convicted in the upcoming trial, he will likely serve a lifetime sentence. Blady, who is one of the co-plaintiffs in the trial, was asked why she chose to become involved in the case.
Highlighting her personal family history, Blady said that at first she was not interested but changed her mind.
"The opportunity of testifying as a co-plaintiff also means a lot to me personally. Not only because of the attack and because of what I experienced, but also concerning my greater family story. All of my grandparents are survivors of the Holocaust. Before they came to the US, they lived in Poland and what was then Czechoslovakia. The fact that I live here in Germany is very complicated for my family, and part of the reason I chose to do so is to address my own past."
"As the granddaughter of survivors, I have experienced a tiny bit of what my grandparents had experienced. I see that the trauma they have survived is something I inherited. What I have experienced is of course a different incident at a different time, but it still happened to the same family. When I go to this trial, of course it’s about what happened to us in Halle, but it’s also about what happened to my grandparents," she remarked.
When asked what she expects to get from the trial, Blady told the interviewer that "Changing society for the better is a core value in Judaism. As a co-plaintiff in the trial, we have an outsized microphone to tell the court and the public what happened. To tell them how it felt and feels now."