Hamburg gunman wrote theological book before attack


Central Europe


Heavily armed police inspect the area near the Jehovah's Witness church where several people were killed in a shooting in Hamburg. Photo AFP, Daniel Reinhardt

The Hamburg shooter who killed seven Jehovah's Witnesses before he shot himself published a theological book at the end of last year. The German authorities issued two reports on the publication.

The Hamburg shooter who killed seven Jehovah's Witnesses before he shot himself probably had a narcissistic personality disorder and was religiously blinded. However, he likely acted in full consciousness. That is the conclusion of two police reports on the mental state of the 35-year-old perpetrator.

A psychiatrist, Christoph Lenk, and an extremism researcher, Peter Neumann, both worked on separate reports commissioned by the Hamburg investigators. Their job was to carry out a psychiatric analysis of Philipp F. The basis for their reports was a book F. had published in December 2022. According to F.'s statements, he wanted to create a new theological standard work on 296 pages, which should stand at the same level as the Bible and the Koran.

According to Neumann, F's book "The Truth about God, Jesus Christ and Satan" has primarily religious traits, concluding that F's anger is directed primarily against Christian religious communities. This means that both the motive for the crime and the target of the attack can be explained conclusively, writes the German Christian magazine PRO.


However, the Jehovah's Witnesses were not named in the book. In addition, F. never calls for violence or approves of violence to achieve ideological goals. Furthermore, there were no conclusions about the right-wing extremist attitude of the alleged perpetrator. The views in the text are sometimes contradictory and could sometimes be understood as anti-democratic, it said. Overall, however, this is not sufficient for classification as political extremism.

But could religious fanaticism have played a role in the attack? Psychiatrist Lenk states that theological content probably played a large part in Philipp F.'s world of thought. The gunman comes from a strictly religious family. In the book, Philipp F. described, among other things, that an alleged battle raged between God, Jesus and Satan that had occurred on earth during the Second World War. Lenk does not comment directly on a possible religious motive in his report. Neither, he rules out that a personality disorder in F. could have assumed extreme proportions.


Earlier this year, the Hamburg Weapons Authority received an anonymous tip stating that F. was dangerous and had been mentally ill for a long time. While the authorities did an internet search on F., they did not read the book. They did not consider it necessary to examine the contents closely and opted for unannounced inspections of F.'s apartment. There was nothing found in the search.

Someone wearing a cross as he lays flowers at the crime scene. Photo EPA, Filip Singer

However, the anonymous tipster also mentioned that Philipp F. had developed aggression against religious groups, particularly his former employer. The Hamburg police chief Ralf Martin Meyer had rejected allegations that the tip had not been followed up consistently enough. Rather, the legal framework for the control of gun owners in suspected cases may not be sufficient, according to Meyer. This writes Die Zeit.

Although the investigation is still ongoing, the inquiry will likely be stopped in the near future. Since F. has died, he cannot be charged.



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