Man accused of arson attack on Lubeck synagogue

BONN — German officials have arrested a suspect in the May arson attack on the synagogue in the northern city of Lubeck.

Officials said the 27-year-old man, whom they described as retarded, had torched the shul because he is a pyromaniac.

Police ruled out anti-Semitic motives.

The arson attempt took place May 7 — the day of worldwide commemorations marking the defeat of the Nazis in World War II — when a fire was set near a side entrance to the synagogue.

Nobody was injured in the blaze, which destroyed an extension to the synagogue.

The incident prompted some 2,000 demonstrators to gather spontaneously in Lubeck to protest the attack.

The synagogue was also the target of an arson attack in March 1994, in what was the first firebombing of a Jewish house of worship since the days of the Third Reich.

Four men between the ages of 19 and 24, all of whom belonged to extreme right-wing groups, were convicted of premeditated arson in that incident, which had caused considerable damage to the synagogue. They were given sentences ranging from 30 months to 4 1/2 years in jail.

The arrest of the man responsible for May's arson attack was announced by Chief Prosecutor Klaus Pflieger last week at a news conference in Lubeck.

The arrest was made on a tip from a 16-year-old youth who admitted that he had been responsible for a separate arson incident.

During questioning by police, the youth said that the 27-year-old man, a friend of his, had told him that he had set fire to the Lubeck Synagogue.

Police arrested the unidentified man shortly after.

Police are still investigating whether the youth may also have participated in the arson attack on the synagogue.