A neo-Nazi targeted a synagogue on Yom Kippur, aiming to “kill as many Jews as possible.” His manifesto continues a trend of white supremacist terrorism.
With The Resistable Rise of Arturo Ui (1941) German playwright Berthold Brecht (1898-1956) produced a satirical allegory of the rise to power of Nazism and Hitler. In Brecht’s typical educational fashion, the last lines of the play vividly warn the audience always to stay alert – the seeds of fascist rule will always remain fertile: “Der Schoß ist fruchtbar noch, aus dem das kroch.” The same goes of course with its ideological narratives.
The anti-Semitic terrorist attack on Yom Kippur in Halle an der Saale in the German state of Sachsen-Anhalt (former part of the GDR) tragically reminds us of that the womb of virulent enemy images and conspiracy theories is far from sterile. To the contrary, anti-Semitic imagination in contemporary Germany fuels radicalization into violent and lethal extremism, which in the case of Halle has left two people dead and a number of people heavily injured. The terrorist attack against the synagogue in Halle developed along a storyline with ingredients that are sadly already well-established features of radical right copycat behavior around the globe: a white radicalized man in his twenties, live-streaming his actions on the Internet, posting a manifesto in which he develops his worldview attempts to storm a house of prayer with the aim to kill as many people in the purported enemy group as possible.
What makes Stefan Balliet (27) different from the Christchurch attack earlier in 2019 is that he didn’t manage to put his plan into effect: the doors of the synagogue in Halle were fortunately too strong and his DIY-weapons and explosives too improvised in order to develop full effect. But even if Balliet did not reach his goal to “kill as many Jews as possible”, it is worth piecing the parts of meaning-making together that he left behind and that are available so far. Among these are three texts published online (pending confirmation of authenticity) and his ca. 35-minutes livestream that originally was posted on the gamer-platform twitch.tv and quickly downloaded to obscure sites on the fringes of the Internet.
Analyzing The Manifesto
In the first one-page-pdf, Balliet refers to his alias “anon” that he also used in the livestream which he then links to. He also attacks Mark Mann of internet forum 8chan with strong anti-Semitic language, alleges that he received money from him to kill “mudslimes” (an Islamophobic term) and that Mann, if he exists IRL certainly works for the CIA in order to “set up people online”. The second pdf has a Japanese file name which translates to “manifesto”. It has only four pages with the following text:
- Page 1: Techno-Barbarism [in Gothic letters] / A Spiritual Guide for discontent White Men in the current year +4 / Dedomesticate yourself / and / Kill all Jews [in large letters, bold, italics and underlined]
- Page 2: Mudslimes, christkikes [derogatory term for Christians], commies, niggers and traitors too.
- Page 3: thanks for reading [in very small letters]
- Page 4: Become a / techno-barbarian / today / and get a / free* / Cat-girl [in very small letters the * is given as] Disclaimer: You need to kill at least one jew to qualify. / Alternatives include Fox-Girls and normal Waifus. / She will always be loyal, so treat her good.
[On page 4 we find a picture of a typical anime cat-girl in a box on which it is printed in Gothic letters: “Strategic Cat Girl Supplies”]
Before I turn to the third and longest pdf posted online, the text is worth unpacking in its own right. The term ‘techno-barbarian’ refers to characters in the narrative of strategic board game Warhammer who are equipped with primitive armor. Possibly, Balliet picked this name because of the DIY-quality of his armory which he assembled similar to equipment in a game. No doubt, the Halle shooting (such as a number before) is embedded in an imagined culture of board-/online-gaming – in the third file he also described different steps to level up and his livestream has typical features of PoV (‘point of view’-perspective) of a gamer.
There is no doubt, he identified himself as a “discontent white man” who aims to step outside his ‘domesticized’ comfort zones in order to carry out lethal attacks against his enemies, the typical mix of internal traitors and external foes. The last page opens up the door towards a particular interpretation – popular among ‘Incels’ – in which female Japanese manga characters (cat and fox girls and so-called ‘waifus’ – human-sized bed pillows with female anime characters which Balliet later on bizarrely states will wait in Valhalla) are perceived as loyal and submissive. It appears also that Balliet announced and posted his attack on the anime board ‘Maguca’. Some of the soundtrack playing in the background of his livestream resembles music in anime.
The largest file posted online is an 11-page-pdf, “A short pre-action report” which to the largest part outlines Balliet’s armory and how he constructed it. These pages strongly resemble the technical part in Breivik’s manifesto (where he described how he constructed his bombs and which weapons he chose for what purpose). Most notably, the Halle-terrorist develops how he built improvised weapons, instructions for which he most likely found on the Internet and for which he used a 3D-printer to print parts of them. When Balliet arrived at page 9, he stated that one of his major aims was to “prove the viability of improvised weapons”. Moreover, an objective related to the other document, was to “increase the moral of other suppressed Whites by spreading the combat footage” (the reason why he livestreamed his attack). Also referring to his short manifesto, a third goal is given as “kill as many non-Whites as possible, jews preferred.”
The longest coherent text is page 10 of the document, where Balliet outlines his plan. He explains why he chose the synagogue in Halle as a target and what the problems and obstacles with his attack might be. The high risks are occasioned by that the “BRD spends huge amount of tax money on jew safety”, the Federal Republic of Germany being a “sad excuse of a country”. Talking about himself, Balliet furthermore claims he looks like a terrorist: “young, fit, white male with blond hair and blue eyes and without tattoos, piercings or other degenerate shit”, which obviously is a (self-)ironic comment upon the physiognomy of terror. But Balliet also admitted he was a “weeb”, a derisive term used for those who are obsessed with Japanese (or manga) culture.
He admitted that his target was a bad choice, but it was “the nearest location with a high population of jews”, particularly on Jom Kippur. Alternative targets he considered were a mosque of antifascist center where he could kill “100 golems” (creatures shaped by Jews). But it would not make a difference since they are shipping more than this number to Europe on a single day. The only solution then is “to cut the head of ZOG [zionist occupation government], which are the kikes.” If he only would kill a single Jew and die himself, it would be worth it: “After all, if every White Man kills just one, we win.” And Balliet added: “Kill some more. Repeat until all jews are dead or you prove the existence of waifus in Valhalla [i e get killed yourself], whatever comes first. Jej.”
There is no doubt that the Halle-terrorist believes in anti-Semite conspiracy theories. Appropriating a term from the US-context, Balliet likens Jews with the ZOG, and hints at that he perceives the refugee crisis as fabricated by Jewish interests (by calling Muslims and anti-Fascists ‘golems’). At the very start of his livestream, the terrorist clearly denied the Holocaust. And on the last page of the third document, he lists 26 achievements in the form of a table with two-liners (similar how to level up in a game), for instance: “[Line 1] If I only had a bullet… [in Italics] / [Line 2] Kill a traitor.” Out of these 26 “achievements”, 7 are outright and blatantly anti-Semite (for instance: “Blue-screened / Kill a ZOG-bot”), three Islamophobic, one anti-Communist, one anti-Christian and one directed against an unspecified “traitor”. Nine of the achievements are simply about to “kill someone” with his DIY-weapons, two about how to disseminate the attack itself and one ironically about what would happen if he hurt himself “with the improvised explosives”.
Against this backdrop it is painful to watch the 35-minute-livestream that was posted online and potentially remains available in some pockets of the undergrowth of the Internet for another while. At large, it is a documentation of miserable failure, and as Balliet also returns to and proves, the unviability of his DIY-armory to achieve his goal to kill as many “kikes” as possible. The more than shaky video documents a nervous and amateurish (and almost apathetic) rampage rather than a carefully executed terrorist attack. Several times he called himself a loser in the livestream and on radical right forums across the globe his miscarried attack is ridiculed and frowned upon.
But we should not be mistaken: Stephan Balliet proved himself also a ruthless and cold-blooded killer murdering an innocent passer-by and a random young man, eating his lunch in a Kebab-restaurant, huddling up in a corner, paralyzed by fear, weeping and begging for his life – which then was ended by a shot from one of the terrorist’s improvised weapons. Moreover, after failing to shoot more people on the streets, he even returned to to the restaurant and the shabby corner on the steps behind two vending machines to fill the lifeless body of the victim with three more bullets. Possibly this was a compensation for scoring higher on his table of “achievements” and its body count.
Taken together, as colleagues from the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at King’s college already have argued succinctly, the Halle synagogue shooting fits into a pattern of far-right terrorism on a global level: “All of them speak to the same audience of white nationalists online, hoping to inspire them to commit their own acts of violence.” The Halle shooter “invoked the unifying grand narrative of white-nationalist terrorism today”, the conspiracy theory of the ‘great replacement’ of the white race, orchestrated by the Jews, which also was cited in the Christchurch and El Paso manifestos (see also Önnerfors, 2019).
German reactions upon the Halle terrorist attack are unapologetic and the display of solidarity with the Jewish community strong and uncompromising, just as after double attack of 2015 in Copenhagen (when first a cultural center and then the synagogue were targeted by an Islamist terrorist). But the attack was also executed in the middle of the rise of the radical right populist party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) and its strongholds among the German electorate, one of the federal states formerly belonging to the GDR, Sachsen-Anhalt. Whereas the radical right in Germany quickly has distanced itself from Balliet (not least since two ‘ethnic Germans’, one of them connected to the hooligan-culture of his hometown Halle, were killed and it was easier to mourn the loss of ‘German’ life), German media and politicians interpret the events rightly as the natural outcome of a normalization of growingly radical positions. Michael Roth of the Social Democrats even stated: “In parliament we find the political branch of right-wing extremism – the AfD” and many accuse the party of joint responsibility for extremist violence.
While the discussion of blame and responsibility most likely will go on for some time, there is no doubt that the global radical right continues to mobilize angry young men to engage in copy-cat behavior and what Zygmunt Bauman has called ‘autotelic violence’. Such violence, that only makes sense in reference to itself, can only be decoded, debunked and potentially countered if taking broad cognitive as well as behavioral aspects of online and offline radicalization into account.
Dr Andreas Önnerfors is a Senior Fellow at CARR and Associate Professor of History of Ideas at University of Gothenberg. See his profile here.
© Andreas Önnerfors. Views expressed on this website are individual contributors and do not necessarily reflect that of the Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right (CARR). We are pleased to share previously unpublished materials with the community under creative commons license 4.0 (Attribution-NoDerivatives).
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