Germans urged to stand united at Munich memorial service

Father of gunman who killed nine people says he is receiving death threats

Germans were urged to stand together and to not lose their humanity at a service on Sunday attended by Chancellor Angela Merkel to remember the victims of recent violent attacks.

As hundreds of black-clad mourners packed Munich’s Church of Our Lady, the father of the teenage gunman who killed nine people on July 22nd said his son had been bullied and was secretly taking anti-depressants.

"I'm not doing well, we are getting murder threats," said Masoud Sonboly, owner of a Munich taxi company, to the Bild am Sonntag newspaper. "My wife has been crying for a week. Our life in Munich is finished."

At a Sunday afternoon memorial service, Christian and Muslim leaders pleaded with German society not to allow terrorism divide them.


German president Joachim Gauck said there was no absolute protection against attackers but called for a societal alliance against them.

“Allow us to be there for one another as a community that provides room to remember the deceased and peace to the living, he said.

Cardinal Reinhold Marx, archbishop of Munich, called for a “new constructive resistance against evil”.

Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strom of the Lutheran church in Bavaria, added: “We need each other.”

Sokol Lamaj, head of Munich’s Muslim Federation agreed: “It is time that we find our way to each other.”

Shortly before 6pm on July 22nd, Ali Sonboly, who lately went by the name David, opened fire in a fast food restaurant north of Munich city centre, continuing his shooting spree opposite in the Olympia Shopping Centre.

After killing nine people, seven of whom where Muslims with an immigrant background, Sonboly hid for two hours in the car park, was eventually cornered by police in a dead-end street, and shot himself.

Early on the morning of July 23rd, police raided the apartment of the gunman’s parents and discovered material indicating an obsession with mass shootings.

It was only after police questioning, the teenager's father claimed, that he learned how his son had visited a school in the town of Winnenden where, in 2009, a-17 year-old student shot dead 15 people. A postmortem also revealed traces of antidepressants in Sonboly's blood.

“I want to know it all, including the medication my son had taken,” said Masoud Sonboly to the German tabloid.

The man said he found out that his son was being bullied in school four years ago by accident, when a classmate – not teachers – told him.

“I took Ali out of the school and spoke to the teachers, I filed charges against some of the bullying students,” he said.

After that the Sonboly family, originally from Iran, moved to a better part of the city. The Munich-born teenager began playing online shooting games such as Counter Strike. Friends report that he legally changed his name to David and told them of his pride to share his birthday – April 20th – with Adolf Hitler.

About two years ago, police suspect, he purchased the murder weapon – a modified Glock pistol – via the internet.

"I knew nothing of the weapon," his father told Bild.

Derek Scally

Derek Scally

Derek Scally is an Irish Times journalist based in Berlin