It was a particularly brutal attack, as the victim later described it: On a September day in 2021, Jörg Schröder* stood with three other comrades-in-arms in front of Saturn on Mönckebergstraße in Hamburg, they held a vigil and waved Israel flags, calling for a clear one with posters attitude against anti-Semitism. Schröder has Jewish roots, and the fight against hatred of Israel and Jews is important to him. Suddenly three teenagers, two boys and a girl, approached the group. The boys shouted "Fuck Israel" and "Free Palestine" and insulted the vigil participants, as Schröder describes it in an interview with WELT.
When the 61-year-old asked what that was about, he was brutally beaten by one of the boys. The devastating record: broken cheekbones, broken glasses pierced the eye, and a complicated injury arose. "I'm practically blind, I can only see light and dark in my right eye," says Schröder. He doesn't want to give his real name.
The public prosecutor's office accused the attackers, two 15 and 17-year-old brothers with Syrian roots, of insulting meeting participants in an anti-Semitic manner. The 17-year-old was also charged with serious bodily harm. The hearing took place under the Juvenile Courts Act and was not open to the public.
Now a Hamburg court has announced the verdict. The 17-year-old accused was sentenced to a youth prison term of 1 year and 4 months for aggravated assault and insult, the execution of which was suspended on probation. This was announced by a court spokesman on Tuesday evening. Probation requirements include community service to earn compensation and anti-violence training.
As the starting point of the confrontation, the court found that the accused had a "general derogatory attitude towards Israel, people from Israel and people who show solidarity with Israel," according to the court spokesman.
In the run-up to the proceedings, there was some irritation: At the request of the victim, Hamburg's anti-Semitism officer, Stefan Hensel, wanted to take part in the proceedings as an observer. But the court forbade this, citing legal concerns. For him as a public official, the focus of his tasks is to deal intensively with anti-Semitic attacks, commented Hensel.
This also applies if an anti-Semitic motive for the crime has not yet been established during a court hearing. "The refusal to participate in the process, however, raises the question of the extent to which anti-Semitism officers are adequately equipped with powers and intervention options that allow officials to carry out their duties effectively."
Hensel's need for information met the handling of youth criminal proceedings, which do not take place in public. "The legal regulation is extremely rigid at this point," said a court spokeswoman. Juvenile defendants are particularly vulnerable by law, the presence of observers can be intimidating and run counter to the "educational mandate".
In exceptional cases, the judge can admit people who are not involved in the process – mostly for training purposes. The spokeswoman said that the possibility of admitting other people would only be used “extremely rarely and in special constellations”.