German Jewish leader 'threatened on Berlin street'

An archive image of Stephen Kramer from November 2008
Image caption Stephan Kramer in 2008: The alleged threat happened on the holiest day for Jews

An inquiry is under way after a top German Jewish official flashed his legally held gun at a man who allegedly threatened him on a Berlin street.

Both Stephan Kramer and his alleged assailant have filed criminal complaints, accusing each other of making a threat.

Mr Kramer admitted showing his gun but denied drawing it. He told reporters he had tried to calm the situation.

He said the other man had told him to "get out of the way" several times.

Mr Kramer is general secretary of the Central Council of Jews and the incident happened on Wednesday, when Jews were marking their holiest day, Yom Kippur.

While the motive for the alleged verbal assault against Mr Kramer is still unclear, Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit said: "Threats against Jewish citizens on the streets are disgraceful and absolutely not acceptable."

The German capital was rattled in August by an assault on a rabbi by a gang who allegedly also threatened to kill his daughter, aged six.

'Definitely xenophobic'

Mr Kramer told AFP news agency he had been walking home from a synagogue with his four children near the Kurfuerstendamm, one of the main streets in central Berlin.

"The man obviously felt provoked by the open prayer book I was carrying and my beard," Mr Kramer said.

While he could not be sure that the other man had seen his Jewish prayer book, he said: "It was definitely xenophobic."

Describing the other man's behaviour as very aggressive, he said he had shown him his gun. "The weapon never left the holster," he stressed.

Police have confirmed that Mr Kramer has the right to carry a gun because he is classified as being a particularly vulnerable figure, Germany's EPD news agency reports.

In August, Rabbi Daniel Alter was struck in the face and subjected to anti-Semitic abuse when he was attacked by four youths believed to be of Arab origin.

He was walking in Berlin's Schoeneberg district with his little girl at the time of the attack.

Germany today has a Jewish population of about 200,000, many of them immigrants from the former USSR. Before the Nazi Holocaust, some half a million Jews were registered as living in the country.

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