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OFFBEAT

Couple plant bomb at Lidl to earn place in the Spanish sun

A couple in western Germany proved that some people will stop at nothing to earn their little piece of paradise when they tried to extort the discounter using pipe bombs.

Couple plant bomb at Lidl to earn place in the Spanish sun
Photo: Terry King / Flickr

The reason why a pipe bomb had exploded at a branch of mega-cheap supermarket Lidl in western Germany in April had remained a mystery for weeks, reports Der Westen.

But on Tuesday, the district court in Bochum issued arrest warrants for two suspects in connection with the attack.

The charge against the married couple from nearby Gelsenkirchen is that they attempted to extort supermarket chain Lidl for millions of euros and were prepared to kill to get what they wanted.

The pipe bomb was a step in this drastic scheme, Bochum prosecutors allege.

It exploded on April 15th in a bin at a recycling station at the Lidl branch in Herten, North Rhine-Westphalia, lightly injuring a female employee, who was struck by shrapnel.

According to Der Westen, Rüdiger D. (48) and Liana D. (54), dreamed of owning a house in Spain. But they didn't plan on doing it in the time-honoured way – after a life time of mundane work, two years before you kick the bucket.

They had set a deadline of September to leave their dilapidated apartment in Gelsenkirchen and head for pastures new, planning to use the money extorted from Lidl.

Now though, they face a murder charge as prosecutors are convinced they would have stopped at nothing to achieve their dream.

Investigators claim that they detonated the bomb remotely, via a mobile phone, and could not see the bin in which they had thrown it – for all they knew, someone could have been right next to it when the bomb went off.

A not-so-speedy getaway

Three days after the bomb attack, Lidl received an email saying that if they did not hand over €1 million euros within a month, more explosions would follow. Not only that, but if the discounter did not pay up within this time frame the ransom would be doubled to €2 million.

But the method this slapstick Bonny and Clyde chose to receive the ransom made the audacious plan all the more implausible.

They registered three credit cards under false identities. But each of the cards had a daily withdrawal limit of €320 euros on it, meaning it would have taken slightly under three years to withdraw all their loot.

Keeping in mind that Lidl has made its name by being as cheap as is conceivably possible, they also didn’t demand the whole sum upfront. The supermarket was to pay €3,000 into each of the three accounts every month.

For the discount chain, this was a price they were prepared to pay to catch their blackmailers.

But, while they paid in the initial ransom, state police started investigating who the criminals behind the plot could be.

It didn’t take long before the trail was warm and undercover cops started filming the pair on their daily trips to the bank.

An array of different disguises, including wigs and face masks, was unable to save them. After the couple had withdrawn €1,200, investigators decided to move in and arrested them.

If a court finds the couple guilty they face a minimum of five years in jail each.

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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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