No evidence of terrorist motive in Cologne hostage drama

Germany’s federal prosecutor's office has found no evidence that an arson attack and hostage-taking at Cologne's Hauptbahnhof, or main station, in October was an Islamist extremist attack.

No evidence of terrorist motive in Cologne hostage drama
The pharmacy where a man took an employee hostage in October. Photo: DPA

Prosecutors found there were no indications that the perpetrator, a Syrian refugee, had been involved with the so-called Islamic State (IS), Zeit reported Friday.

The case has therefore been handed over to the Cologne public prosecutor's office.

The Attorney General’s Office had initially taken the investigation on because it was thought that the crime was an attack by an extremist, after witness statements appeared to show this.

The 55-year-old sparked panic at the busy train station on October 15th, after he started a fire in a branch of the fast food chain McDonald's that left a 14-year-old girl with burns.

He then took a female employee hostage in a nearby pharmacy. Heavily armed police opened fire on the 55-year-old suspect, who underwent emergency surgery.

SEE ALSO: Syrian in Cologne hostage drama had mental problems: Police

At the time the man was said to have called himself a member of IS.

“In the course of further investigations, however, the evidence pointing to a radical Islamist motive could not be substantiated,” the federal prosecutor's office announced Friday.

'Mental health problems'

German media reports detailed that the man had mental health problems and had been undergoing treatment since 2017.

He had tried to bring his wife to Germany, but the German authorities had rejected the visa application, reports said.

The man had previously been tried by the Cologne District Court for fraud, at which time the court had ordered a psychiatric expert opinion.

The man remains in hospital two months after the incident.

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Ancient Jewish settlement to be brought back to life in Cologne

No city north of the Alps has been home to Jews for as long as the Roman settlement of Cologne. A recently discovered Jewish quarter is now being brought back to life.

Ancient Jewish settlement to be brought back to life in Cologne
The site of the construction in Cologne. Photo: DPA

If you are a tourist walking through the centre of Cologne, sooner rather than later, you'll come across a construction site located in the very best position, in the middle of the town hall square.

At the beginning of this millennium, the people of Cologne dug into the earth directly in front of their historic city hall and found a treasure from another millennium: the Jewish quarter.

Complete with a dance hall, a hospital, a bakery and a synagogue, the quarter contains the ruins of a settlement from the Middle Ages. It is a city within a city, a miniature world of houses huddled together. 

Of course, all that is left is ruins – one needs a bit of imagination to picture how the whole thing once looked. But experts from Germany and abroad agree: there's nothing like it anywhere else in the world.

Ancient tradition

No other German city has been associated with Jewish history for so long as Cologne. 

The first documented Jewish community dates back to the year 321, making it the oldest north of the Alps. 

But in 1349, the neighbourhood was destroyed and its inhabitants were murdered or expelled. Local Christians blamed Jews for the outbreak of the plague.

Currently, a museum is being built over the site on the town hall square. It will be a parallel world underground: visitors will be able to relive life in the Jewish quarter in the era of knights and minstrels on a 600-meter-long trail. The trail also visits the governor's palace from Roman times, which was rediscovered in the 1950s. 

The museum is called MiQua after the name for the Jewish ritual bath, Mikveh.

Exhibits will include artifacts found during the excavations; among them is a crescent-shaped, gem-set gold earring from the 11th century. 

The researchers also discovered a tablet dating back to the Middle Ages with the inscription “yt in ys neyt anders.” This could be translated as “Et is wie et is” (It is as it is) – a classic Cologne saying. 

The museum is scheduled to open in 2024, but through the panorama windows on the third floor of the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, also located on Rathausplatz, one can already follow the progress of construction work.

This year Jewish life will be celebrated across the country – the anniversary year '1,700 years of Jewish life in Germany' will be celebrated nationwide. 

Hamburg is organising a themed week entitled 'More than Little Jerusalem'; in Nuremberg the photo exhibition 'Germany's Emigrants' will be opened; and in Herxheim in Rhineland-Palatinate the play Judas by Lot Vekemans will be staged.

READ MORE: 9 hilarious gifts Judaism gave the German language