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Duesseldorf Synagogue Firebombed

October 3, 2000 GMT

DUESSELDORF, Germany (AP) _ Assailants firebombed a synagogue in the western city of Duesseldorf on the eve of the 10th anniversary of German reunification, police said Tuesday. No one was injured and damage was minimal.

Police were questioning two youths, ages 15 and 16, and were not ruling out a right-wing motive.

A prominent Jewish leader condemned the attack and demanded better protection for Jewish institutions in Germany.

``An important aspect of this attack coming on the 10th anniversary is that the threat of right-wing violence is a problem for all of Germany,″ said Michel Friedman, vice president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany. ``The Nazis and their violence in both east and west are now also united.″

The youths, who were picked up in the neighborhood, have been in trouble with police before but have no known connections with right-wing activities, police said.

The assailants threw as many as three Molotov cocktails against the glass of the synagogue’s main door, police said. A passerby climbed over an iron fence and stomped out the small blaze just before midnight Monday.

Conflicting witness reports say two to four people were seen running from the scene, police said.

Leaders of the Jewish community have expressed growing pessimism since a still-unsolved bombing at a train station in Duesseldorf injured 10 recent immigrants, six of them Jewish.

The incident sparked a fierce national debate on the rise in anti-foreigner and anti-Semitic attacks that have killed at least three people this year. Some of the worst neo-Nazi incidents have been in the former communist eastern states, including the firebombing of a synagogue in Erfurt and the murder of a Mozambican man in Dessau.

Yet Paul Spiegel, the leader of Germany’s Jewish community, stressed that anti-Semitism isn’t confined to the east.

``We have to understand the roots of the problem, and need clear words from politicians,″ Spiegel told the Phoenix television network. ``No one is born racist or anti-Semitic. Something must happen to them within society and that’s what we have to find out.″

Nationwide, federal police logged 157 anti-Semitic incidents in the second quarter of this year, 47 more than in the same period a year earlier.

Also overnight, vandals painted swastikas on the bell tower at the former Buchenwald concentration camp, police said.

The Duesseldorf synagogue firebombing comes during the Jewish holy week and just a day after the Berlin Jewish community reported that two naked men wearing jackboots tried to disrupt Rosh Hashana services Friday.

The Duesseldorf synagogue serves a community of 6,300 Jews, two-thirds of whom have arrived during the past 10 years under a post-Cold War government policy allowing immigration of Jews from the former Soviet Union. Nationwide, the Jewish community in Germany has surged from 30,000 to 85,000 since the fall of communism.