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CRIME

Police hunt suspected female gang in Hamburg

Hamburg police are hot on the heels of an unusual band of suspected burglars - a gang of three young women who have been spotted near the sites of break-ins in the south of the city.

Police hunt suspected female gang in Hamburg
The three young criminals. Photo: Hamburg Police

By outward appearances they look like a perfectly normal group of female friends in their early twenties, sharing a care-free joke as they ride the bus or stroll down the street. They're well-dressed, done up in make-up and each of them is carrying a big, spacious handbag.

But pictures released by police of three young women show a band of alleged criminals who police suspect have been attempting daring break-ins in the wealthy port city.

The three women can be seen in three different pictures, taken on three separate occasions as passersby reported seeing them breaking into houses in June.

The young Hamburgers' alleged crime spree appears to have begun on June 4th.

A neighbour came to the rescue as the women tried to break the lock on a door in the Neugraben-Fischbeck neighbourhood. The women fled but the civic-minded neighbour managed to snap a photo of them as they went.

The trio, in the company of a man, on June 4th. Photo: Hamburg Police

A week later the group were foiled again as they were forcing their way through the window of a house in the Sinsdorf district. This time a burglar alarm alerted a pedestrian to their criminal act.

The young women didn't wait long before they were back to their law-breaking ways. But on June 16th they were once again out of luck.

Attentive neighbours heard strange sounds in their hallway and sent the young women packing as they attempted to break the lock on a house in Barmbeck.

A police spokesperson could not confirm to The Local whether the women may have been linked to further crimes in the intervening period or whether they have decided to hang up their handbags for good.

But he did say that it is more common than one might think for woman to be involved in break-ins.

“They are breaking into empty family homes and, in terms of the strength required to break in, when you have the right equipment, it is not important if you are a man or a woman,” the spokesperson said.

Police “regularly” deal with reports of break-ins by women, he confirmed.

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CRIME

Ukrainian Holocaust survivors find safe haven in Germany

Borys Shyfrin fled as a young child, along with other members of his Jewish family, from the Nazis.

Ukrainian Holocaust survivors find safe haven in Germany

More than eight decades on, the Ukrainian Holocaust survivor has been forced from his home once more – but this time he’s found a safe haven in Germany.

Shyfrin is among a number of Ukrainian Jews who lived through the Nazi terror and have now fled to the country from which Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich launched its drive try to wipe Jews out.

He never wanted to leave Mariupol, where he had lived for decades. But Russia’s brutal assault on the Ukrainian port city made it impossible to stay.

“There was no gas, no electricity, no water whatsoever,” the 81-year-old told AFP from a care home in Frankfurt, recalling the relentless bombardment by Moscow’s forces.

“We were waiting for the authorities to come… We waited for a day, two days a week.”

Bodies of people killed by bombs and gunfire littered the streets, recalled Shyfrin, a widower who had lost contact with his only son.

“There were so many of them… no one picked them up. People got used to it – no one paid attention.”

People scraped by finding what food they could, with water supplied by a fire engine that made regular visits to his neighbourhood.

Shyfrin’s apartment was damaged during the fighting in Mariupol – defended so fiercely that it became a symbol of Ukrainian resistance – and he spent much time sheltering in the cellar of his building.

Became homeless

The elderly man eventually left Mariupol with the aid of a rabbi, who helped the local Jewish population get out of the city.

He was evacuated to Crimea, and from there, travelled on a lengthy overland journey through Russia and Belarus, eventually arriving in Warsaw, Poland.

After some weeks in Poland, a place in a care home was found in Frankfurt.

In July, he was transported to Germany in an ambulance, with the help of the Claims Conference, a Jewish organisation that has been aiding the evacuation of Ukrainian Holocaust survivors.

Shyfrin, who walks with the aid of a stick, is still processing the whirlwind of events that carried him unexpectedly to Germany.

The outbreak of war was a “very big surprise”, he said.

“I used to love (Russian President Vladimir) Putin very much,” said Shyfrin, who is a native Russian speaker, did military service in the Soviet Union, and went on to work as a radio engineer with the military.

“Now I do not know whether Putin is right to be at war with Ukraine or not – but somehow, because of this war, I have become homeless.”

Shyfrin was born in 1941, in Gomel, Belarus.

When he was just three months old, his family fled to Tajikistan to escape German Nazi forces who were occupying the region.

Many of Belarus’s Jews died during the Holocaust, in which the Nazis killed a total of six million European Jews.

In neighbouring Ukraine, the once-large Jewish community was also almost completely wiped out.

After the war, his family returned to Belarus and Shyfrin completed his studies, did military service, and settled in Ukraine, then part of the Soviet Union, in the mid-1970s.

“Traumatised”

The pensioner seemed philosophical about the twist of fate that has forced him to leave his home.

“Well, it’s not up to me,” he said, when asked about having to flee war for the second time in his life.

His most immediate concerns are more practical – such as how to access his money back home.

“I can’t even receive my honestly earned military pension,” he said.

He recently moved to a new care home run by the Jewish community, where there are more Russian speakers.

As well as helping Shyfrin on the final leg of his journey, the Claims Conference provided him with financial assistance.

It has evacuated over 90 Ukrainian Holocaust survivors to Germany since the outbreak of the conflict, a break from the organisation’s usual work of ensuring that survivors get compensation and ongoing support.

The body had long been helping to run care programmes for Holocaust victims in Ukraine.

But, as the conflict intensified, it became clear such care programmes could no longer be sustained, particularly in the east, said Ruediger Mahlo, the Conference’s representative in Germany.

“Because many of the survivors needed a lot of care and could not survive without this help, it was clear we had to try to do everything to evacuate (them),” he told AFP.

Getting them out involved huge logistical challenges, from finding ambulances in Ukraine to locating suitable care homes.

For many of the frail Holocaust survivors, it can be a struggle to grasp the fact that they have found refuge in Germany, said Mahlo.

They are fleeing to a country that “had in the past persecuted them, and done everything to kill them,” he said.

“Certainly, they are traumatised,” he said.

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