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Stupor in Hamburg after a massacre among Jehovah’s Witnesses


DECRYPTION – A former member of the community emptied nine magazines in a prayer hall in the city, killing eight people.

A gutted window, seals affixed to the door and a small corridor leading to the prayer room on the ground floor, a few chairs and a ficus placed in a corner: here are the only visible elements of the crime scene, Friday, fifteen hours after the slaughter which mowed down seven people in a Hamburg community of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The manifest work of a solitary murderer, Philipp F, 35, who committed suicide after shooting his former classmates.

The worst criminal act in our city’s recent history“, underlined the regional Minister of the Interior, Andy Grote. Emmanuel Macron sent a message of condolence in both languages.to the victims and to our German friends”. Hamburg is the political stronghold of the Chancellor Olaf Scholz. City of which he was mayor from 2011 to 2018.

“The Kingdom Hall” in Deelböge Street is one of three community locations in the Alsterdorf district (north). Passers-by begin to lay flowers and candles in front of the building, recognizable by its English-speaking JW logo, alongside a gas station and a windshield repairer.

Opposite, a residential block renowned for its “tranquility”. “Never thought that such a scary thing could happen here. It’s the most total shock“, repeats Dagmar Kämpfer, born more than 60 years ago in the district.

In its scale, the act evokes more the mass killings of the United States, than the ordinary assassinations that occasionally punctuate German life. In 2020, nine young immigrants from Hanau, a suburb of Frankfurt, were shot dead by a far-right fanatic. The previous year, a synagogue in Halle had been targeted on the Yom Kippur holiday. Two passers-by had died.

The murderer of Hamburg had since December a port of weapons as well as a caliber of 9 millimeters Heckler & Koch, model P30. A month later, his erratic behavior, due to a “unidentified mental illness“, had earned him a report to the security organs, as well as a routine check, without his weapon being withdrawn.

This former member of Jehovah’s Witnesses who had not left the community “on good terms”, according to the investigators, appeared around 9 p.m. Thursday evening in front of the door of the “Kingdom Hall”. In his backpack, twenty full magazines, plus two that he held in his hands.

The shots lasted a good five minutes, spaced out by several silent intervals. I immediately thought it was a shooting between rival gangs although it is not at all the kind of the neighborhood “, explains Sabine who lives on the first floor of a building overlooking the building. According to the police, Philipp F. would have emptied nine of his chargers equipped with fifteen bullets each.

Important community

If the special intervention units had not intervened quickly, the massacre would have increased tenfold, underlined the Minister of the Interior. Of the fifty members present in the room, two women and four men perished. A seven-month-old fetus died in its mother’s womb, unharmed.

Four injured, two of them serious, were counted. The murderer turned his weapon against him after taking refuge on the second floor of the building, at the time of the police intervention.

In a photo, Philipp F. looks like the ideal son-in-law, elegant, brown hair cut short. On its website consulted by the Spiegelthis former finance graduate presented himself as a consultant offering his advice both in the field of auditing and “theology”, at astronomical prices: 250,000 euros per day excluding VAT but with the promise of generating “two million euros» with its customers. The reasons for his act remain nebulous, although the character was animated by anti-religious feelings.

With 200,000 members, including 3,800 in Hamburg, the German community of Jehovah’s Witnesses is one of the largest in Europe, and the congregation saiddeeply saddened“. Living in expectation of the coming of the “new world”, his followers hold to a primitive reading of the Bible, deny the dogma of the Trinity, celebrate no traditional religious festivals, and consider Jesus Christ the fruit of divine creation. Across the Rhine, the presence of Jehovah’s Witnesses is better tolerated than in France, where it is accused of sectarian aberrations.

I don’t share their beliefs, especially the fact that they refuse blood transfusions, but that doesn’t matter.“laments Margherita, a protestant Hamburg retiree who came to try”to understand what could have been going on in this guy’s head“. She left with no answers.

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