After rampage in Hamburg: commemoration for victims and helpers

As of: 03/19/2023 6:15 p.m

In Hamburg’s main church of St. Petri, the victims of the killing spree on March 9th are commemorated. The major Christian churches have invited to the service. Hundreds of people attend the service.

“It’s terrible what happened. It is my need to participate”, said a visitor shortly before the service began. A man said: “That touched me deeply, I hope that the world will become more non-violent.” And the protestant police pastor Patrick Klein, who was on duty himself on March 9th, said: “It is important that we pause in the face of the horrific act”. He will also offer an intercession at the service. Among the guests were numerous emergency chaplains, police officers and politicians from the Hanseatic city, including Hamburg Mayor Peter Tschentscher, Interior Senator Andy Grote (both SPD) and Hamburg’s Deputy Mayor Katharina Fegebank (Greens).

The city of Hamburg does not organize this commemoration. It is the Archdiocese of Hamburg, the North Church and the Working Group of Christian Churches who have invited to the main church of St. Petri. Four candles were lit during the ceremony: for those affected and victims of the rampage, for the emergency services, for the neighborhood and for peace.


1 min

NDR 903 Karsten Sekund spoke to participants shortly before the start of the service in the main church of St. Petri. 1 min

hesse: “Setting signs for peace”

“We want to set an example for peace, which we believe will triumph and that it will be stronger in the end,” said Hamburg’s Catholic Archbishop Stefan Hesse late in the afternoon at the opening of the ecumenical commemoration. “The bleaker the prospects for peace may be, the more urgent and resolute must be our hopes and our confidence, our will for peace and also our actions.” The evangelical bishop Kirsten Fehrs also preaches at the ecumenical service.

“We are agitated and still stunned by the killing spree that swept through the congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses on March 9th, killing and injuring people so horribly. The city mourns. That’s why we need space now to express our complaint and our compassion and to find a language for it – with words and gestures. To mourn. To pray. For relief. And especially for consolation”Bishop Kirsten Fehrs explained in advance.

Commemoration does not replace a funeral service

With the cross-faith commemoration event, the Hamburg churches wanted to give the mourning space and donate consolation and care. The commemoration should not and cannot replace a funeral service for Jehovah’s Witnesses, the churches said. That is why Fehrs and Hess would pray as part of an intercession during the commemoration for the victims, the injured, their families and for the helpers, rescuers, police officers and firefighters. Jehovah’s Witnesses are also invited and every member is free to go there.

Jehovah’s Witnesses value solidarity

On Tuesday, the planned service of the major Christian churches caused upset because the Jehovah’s Witnesses are not part of their working group. “Not a single one of the victims or their relatives is involved in these talks, these plans, let alone the community of Jehovah’s Witnesses, who certainly want to find a way, in their own way, according to their Christian principles, to carry out a funeral service”, spokesman Michael Tsifidaris was outraged. The spokesman for the faith community has since said that he appreciates the solidarity and sympathy expressed through this commemoration. “However, there will be no official participation by Jehovah’s Witnesses. We want to choose our own shape”said the regional representative.

Jehovah’s Witnesses hold funeral service

“Of course we exchanged ideas, also with the initiators of the service”, spokesman Michael Tsifidaris said in an interview with NDR Info on Friday. The community appreciates this form of sympathy, but will soon be holding its own funeral service to do justice to the wishes of the relatives and, above all, to commemorate the victims: “We are now in close coordination with the relatives, but I can already say today that we will hold a central commemoration event the weekend after next, due to the great interest and the overwhelming sympathy that the population has shown us.” The municipality is very grateful to the city of Hamburg, which is supporting them with the preparatory work, says Tsifidaris. More details will come in the coming days: “We will also find ways for the wider public to get involved.” The city laid out a book of condolences in City Hall on Saturday. There, Hamburg residents can express their sympathy for a week between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. It will later be handed over to the families of the victims. “We really appreciate this gesture”said the community spokesman.

Appreciation of the police officers?

Far away from the service, consideration is given to paying tribute to the police officers who, on the evening of the crime, stopped the gunman very quickly without putting on extra protective clothing and risking their lives. The domestic policy spokesman for the CDU, Dennis Gladiator, suggested an honor in the town hall – or on the town hall market. In the rampage on March 9, 35-year-old Philipp F. killed seven people – including an unborn child – and himself on Deelböge Street in the Alsterdorf district. According to Jehovah’s Witnesses on Friday, all of the injured are now out of danger.

Further information

Flowers and candles in front of the entrance to a Jehovah's Witnesses building in Hamburg where there was a killing spree on March 9.  © Daniel Bockwoldt/dpa

How did the crime unfold, who are the victims, what do we know about the perpetrator? The authorities have commented on the current status of the investigation for the second time. (03/19/2023) more

Book of condolences for the victims of the ambush among Jehovah's Witnesses © Jonas Walzberg/dpa

After the shooting in Hamburg-Alsterdorf, those interested can express their condolences in the book. It’s a week away. (03/18/2023) more

Romy Hiller in studio talk with Michael Tsifidaris © Screenshot

7 mins

How does the community deal with grief? The spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses, Michael Tsifidaris, as a guest in the studio. (03/17/2023) 7 mins

The prayer house of Jehovah's Witnesses in Hamburg.  ©screenshot

2 mins

Furthermore, one person who was injured during the killing spree is in mortal danger. How is the community dealing with this? (03/15/2023) 2 mins

Andy Grote (SPD), Senator for the Interior and Sport in Hamburg, Police President Ralf Martin Meyer, Arnold Keller from the Attorney General's Office and Uwe Stockmann, Hamburg State Criminal Police Office (from right to left), are sitting in the town hall during the state press conference on the current investigation status of the amok act.  © picture alliance/dpa |  Marcus Brandt Photo: Marcus Brandt

While Hamburg’s chief of police, Ralf Martin Meyer, cannot see any mistakes by the weapons authorities, the opposition is demanding clarification. (03/14/2022) more

Flowers and candles lie and stand in front of the entrance to a church of Jehovah's Witnesses in the Alsterdorf district.  © dpa photo: Christian Charisius

The “Time” reports that the Hamburg police apparently did not read a conspicuous book by the perpetrator. (03/14/2023) more

People stand in front of the display of a gun shop that sells alarm and signal weapons.  © dpa

After the killing spree among Jehovah’s Witnesses, the interior ministers of the SPD-led countries are currently discussing tightening the law. (03/13/2023) more

The magazine "watchtower" © picture alliance/dpa |  Sina Schuldt

The strictly religious community has around 170,000 members in Germany. At the center of their teaching is the expectation of the end of the world. more

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NDR 90.3 | NDR 90.3 Current | 03/19/2023 | 17:00 o’clock

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