Survivors of the Copenhagen synagogue attack talk about how the night unfolded

February 17, 2015 9:46 am

As Anat Taboul sat on the floor of the safe room under Copenhagen’s
synagogue with her 13-year-old son Noah on Saturday night, she made
every effort not to let the children around her pick up on her growing
feeling of dread.
“All the adults were looking into each other’s eyes and we all thought something terrible was happening,” she said.

“We
were afraid there were terrorists actually in the building, but we
couldn’t discuss it, because we wanted to protect the children.”
The
Bar Mitzvah disco for the son of family friends had barely begun when
Tobias, one of the two volunteer guards on duty that night, abruptly
shut off the music, telling everyone to go to the basement. “He said the
police had informed him that we should stay here and that it was just a
security procedure,” Ms Taboul said.
The din of the first two
dance music tracks had drowned out the sound of shooting in which
Tobias’s colleague, Dan Uzan, had been killed and five police officers
injured only moments before, but the adults suspected this was just a
story to prevent the children panicking.

“We didn’t hear anything,” Ms Taboul’s husband Yoav, 43, said.
“But we could just see in his eyes that something terrible had
happened.”
So thick were the walls and doors that only one person
was able to get mobile phone reception inside the secure room, but this
was enough for the adults to learn that the entire Copenhagen district
around them had been cordoned off by police.
“We stayed in a
small room for nearly two hours. We were very hot, without anything at
all,” Anat said. “We just sat there and the children were crying and we
were taking care of them.” Each of the unaccompanied children was paired
with an adult, who would look after them.
Two hours later,
Tobias returned to help them evacuate safely. Outside, Danish special
forces were waiting to drive them to a police station outside
Copenhagen, the same place where people evacuated from that afternoon’s
caf? attack had been taken just hours earlier.
“They had
psychologists there to help the children. It was a real crisis
situation. It was the same person, who had done it twice in one day,” Mr
Taboul said. “He said it was the worst day of his life.”
Faced
with the growing anti-Semitic mood, Jews in Copenhagen had already been
taking more precautions. Ms Taboul said she stopped wearing her Star of
David necklace after graffiti was scrawled at her son’s school last
summer.
“Coming to the synagogue, we feel safe normally,” she
said. “But we always think, ‘Maybe something will happen some day,’
because there’s never any police here.” Meanwhile, Israeli Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday urged European Jews to emigrate to
Israel for their own security. He said: “Jews deserve protection in
every country, but we say to Jews, to our brothers and sisters, Israel
is your home. We are preparing and calling for the absorption of mass
immigration from .”
’s Chief Rabbi Jair Melchior
said he was “disappointed” by Mr Netanyahu’s stance. But Michael Alt
Schuul, 53, a photographer and former volunteer guard at Copenhagen
Synagogue, said: “We will have another attack on a synagogue or the
Jewish school. I have a child there, but you can’t say my children can’t
go to the only Jewish school, because then you are cutting off your
Jewish life.
“My children know that if they hear a shot, they
have to fall down on the ground immediately. It’s just a part of being a
Jew. Other Danes live in a totally other world.”
He said he understood what Mr Netanyhau meant: “I do have sympathy – but of course we choose not to live there.”

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