It took a while until I understood. A right-extremist attack had targeted a synagogue in Halle/Saale, my former hometown. A town I had grown fond of. Two people were killed, the attacker filmed the attack and uploaded it to social networks. A few years ago, another attacker had killed several people in Munich where I had lived before I moved to Halle. In Halle, the Jewish believers had barricaded the door of the synagogue and prevented a bloodshed. The frustrated attacker then shot two by-passers. Random targets. It could have been anyone, me, you.
When I overcame my shock, my heart filled with sorrow. Halle is a town of history and of culture. Violence has no place in it. At least it should not have a place in it. Neither should any Nazi inspired ideology. But right-wing extremism is a fact. So is the response of Halle’s citizen to the attack. Many assembled yesterday evening at public spaces to pray and to signal: Not with us. I am proud of them, very proud. My thoughts are with them, the victims, their relatives and the policemen who went after the perpetrator.
Perhaps Georg Friedrich Händel’s oratorio “Messiah” (HWV 56) can give them some comfort. Händel composed it in 1741. It was first performed in the spring of 1742 and has become one of Händel’s best known works. By the time Händel was working on the “Messiah”, he had left his hometown Halle and settled down in London, which explains why the original score features texts from the King James Bible and the Coverdale Psalter. To do the town of Halle justice, I have however picked a recording of a performance in German, courtesy of the Südfunk- Sinfonieorchester. The translation goes back to the German poet Johann Gottfried Herder (b. 1744, d. 1803).
© Charles Thibo