German police have arrested a teen suspect in an anti-Semitic attack against two men who were wearing traditional Jewish skullcaps while walking central Berlin.
A video of the assault, filmed by one of the victims, went viral on social media and sparked fears of a resurgence of anti-Semitic violence.
Police have revealed that a 19-year-old suspect they had already identified from the footage and from witness statements had presented himself with a lawyer.
He is now set to face a judge on assault charges.
Shocking: Adam Armush, 21, was able to film on his mobile phone as another young man (pictured) viciously beat him with a belt while shouting ‘Yahudi’ – ‘Jew’ in Arabic in Berlin yesterday
The man who was viciously lashed with a belt in the anti-Semitic attack says he’s not actually Jewish and was wearing the skullcap as an experiment.
Adam Armush, 21, was walking with a friend through an affluent Berlin neighbourhood when they were sworn at and attacked by a group when they told them to stop shouting.
The video, recorded on his mobile phone and published by Bild, shows a young man beating him with a belt while shouting ‘Yahudi’ – ‘Jew’ in Arabic.
Bild daily identified the suspect as a Palestinian from Syria named Knaan S.
The man was registered at a refugee home in Brandenburg state, outside of Berlin but was most recently described as living ‘out of a suitcase’ in the capital.
Mr Armush told broadcaster Deutsche Welle that he wore the Jewish kippa gifted to him by a friend to see whether it was safe to wear on the streets of his upmarket Berlin neighbourhood.
He said he uploaded the video ‘for the police and for the German people and even the world to see how terrible it is these days as a Jew to go through Berlin streets’.
A number of high-profile incidents in recent months have raised alarm bells about a possible resurgence of anti-Semitism in Germany from both the far-right and a large influx of predominantly Muslim asylum-seekers since 2015.
The latest incident was described as a ‘disgrace’ for German democracy by a spokeswoman for Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Germany ‘bears a responsibility to protect Jewish life’ more than 70 years after the end of the Holocaust in which the Nazis murdered six million European Jews.
The head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Joseph Schuster, told AFP he was ‘shocked’ by the incident, noting that it had occurred in a ‘bourgeois’ area and not in a ‘majority Muslim quarter’.
‘This case must be met with the full force of the law,’ he said.
The incident took place at the Helmholtzplatz, a public park in southern Berlin, near Mr Armush’s home.
‘We came out of our home, my friend and I, wearing our kippas, and walked down the street. We weren’t talking with anyone else,’ Mr Armush told Israeli broadcaster Kan, according to Times of Israel.
‘When they kept cursing us, my friend asked them to stop cursing, and that got them angry. So one of them ran at me.
‘I immediately felt it was important to film, because I didn’t think we could catch him before police arrived. I wanted to give police something to go on.’
Mr Armush later said the pair weren’t Jewish, he is an Israeli raised by and Arab family, and were wearing the kippas to see what would happen.
He said a friend gave him the traditional skull covering as a gift and he was told it was ‘unsafe’ to wear it on the street of Berlin.
Victim: Mr Armush, 21, says he and a friend were attacked for wearing kippas in public in southern Berlin on Tuesday
Anti-Semitic attack: The unidentified attacker can be seen swinging his belt and whipping Mr Armush and his companion
‘It was an experience for me to wear the kippa yesterday and go out,’ he said, surprised that the reaction they got was so violent.
‘I realised I have to take a video of it. I wanted to have evidence for police and the German people and the world to see how terrible it is these days as a Jew to go through Berlin streets.
‘I could not sleep at all last night, my body hurts in various places, and I just feel less safe.’
Mr Armush (left) later said he and his friend (right) weren’t Jewish, he is an Israeli raised by and Arab family, and were wearing the kippas to see what would happen.
The video has been handed over to Berlin police, who say are investigating the incident of three unknown assailants attacking two Jewish men aged 21 and 24.
‘It is incomprehensible to see a young Jewish man attacked on the street in an established area of Berlin, just because he is identified as a Jew,’ said Levy Salomon, spokesman for the Jewish Forum for Democracy and Against anti-Semitism who shared the video on social media.
‘It shows Jews are not safe even here. We don’t need any more speeches, we need actions.