Germany Probing if neo-Nazi Gang Killed Israeli Rabbi in 2001

Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum, father of 11 and the head of a yeshiva in Bnei Brak, was shot to death at close range by an unknown assailant, while visiting Zurich to raise money.

Authorities in Germany and Switzerland are investigating whether a neo-Nazi terror group, exposed last month in Germany, is responsible for the unsolved murder of an Israeli rabbi in Zurich 10 years ago.

The prosecutor in the southern German city of Karlsruhe has appointed a special investigator to look into a possible link between the neo-Nazi group and the 2001 murder of Avraham Greenbaum, 71.

murder of Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum

Greenbaum was shot to death at close range by an unknown assailant in June 2001, while on his way to evening prayers at a synagogue in Zurich's Jewish quarter. He was not robbed, and so it was believed that the murderer had nationalist or anti-Semitic motives.

A mentally ill man who was seen leaving the scene at about the time of the attack was arrested but later released, and the case has remained open ever since.

Greenbaum, a father of 11 and the head of a yeshiva in Bnei Brak, traveled to Switzerland every year to raise money.

A number of similar murders were carried out that same summer; they turned out to have been perpetrated by the same group. Six days after Greenbaum was killed, a Turkish immigrant was shot to death in Nuremberg, and six weeks after that, another Turkish man was killed in Hamburg. In August 2001, another Turk was killed in Munich.

The Swiss media reported this week that the murderers - members of the neo-Nazi group - had met with various people in Switzerland, drove a car with Swiss plates and used a gun purchased in Switzerland.

Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum.
Courtesy Bild

The terror cell was exposed last week after two of its members committed suicide following a failed bank robbery, and its third member, a woman, blew up the apartment in which they had been living. She was subsequently arrested and told police about the group's involvement in the murders of nine immigrants and a policewoman in Germany. A search of the apartment's remains revealed a "hit list" that included a Jewish member of parliament from Germany.

Police now suspect that the same group may have been responsible for Greenbaum's murder.

After the murder, the National Insurance Institute initially refused to recognize Greenbaum as a terror victim, claiming that since the murderer was not caught, his motives were not known. At the time Greenbaum was killed, civilians could be recognized as terror victims only for violence against Israelis or Israeli interests, not for anti-Semitic attacks. In 2005 the law was amended, allowing an Israeli who is hurt from "terror acts against the Jewish people" to be recognized as a terror victim.

Following an appeal by Greenbaum's widow, the National Insurance Institute recognized Greenbaum as a terror victim. The Tel Aviv District Court, sitting as an appeals committee regarding the status of terror victims, determined in 2007 that "it is highly likely that the assassin knew he was killing a Jew. The location of the incident and Mr. Greenbaum's appearance left no doubt as to his identity as a Jew."

Read this story in Hebrew.