Israel welcomes compensation deal with 1972 Olympics victims’ families

A compensation deal was announced by Berlin on Wednesday between Germany and families of Israelis killed in an attack at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

Published : Aug 31, 2022 20:14 IST , JERUSALEM

FILE PHOTO: Israel’s President Isaac Herzog.
FILE PHOTO: Israel’s President Isaac Herzog. | Photo Credit: AP

FILE PHOTO: Israel’s President Isaac Herzog. | Photo Credit: AP

Israeli President Isaac Herzog welcomed a compensation deal announced by Berlin on Wednesday between Germany and families of Israelis killed in an attack at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

"I want to express my appreciation for this important step by the German government, led by Chancellor (Olaf) Scholz, taking responsibility and making reparations for the historic injustice done to the families of the victims of the Munich massacre," Herzog said in a statement.

A row over the financial offer made previously by Berlin had threatened to sour Monday's 50th anniversary memorial ceremony in Munich, with victims' families initially planning to stay away.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and his Israeli counterpart Herzog issued a joint statement voicing relief at the 11th-hour deal on "historical clarification, recognition and compensation".

"The agreement cannot heal all wounds. But it opens a door to each other," the presidents said.

They added that with the agreement, the German state acknowledges its "responsibility and recognises the terrible suffering of those killed and their relatives".

From Jerusalem, Herzog himself thanked the German government for taking the "important step" of accepting responsibility and making reparations for the "historic injustice" done to bereaved families.

On September 5, 1972, eight gunmen of the Palestinian militant group Black September broke into the Israeli team's flat at the Olympic village, shooting dead two and taking nine Israelis hostage.

West German police responded with a bungled rescue operation in which all nine hostages were killed, along with five of the eight hostage-takers and a police officer.

The Games were meant to showcase a new Germany 27 years after the Holocaust but instead opened a deep rift with Israel.

In 2012, Israel released 45 official documents on the killings, including specially declassified material, which lambasted the performance of the German security services.

Included in the reports is an official account from the former Israeli intelligence head Zvi Zamir who said the German police "didn't make even a minimal effort to save human lives".

Painful chapter

Relatives of victims have over the years battled to obtain an official apology from Germany, access to official documents and appropriate compensation beyond the 4.5 million euros ($4.5 million) already provided.

As recently as just two weeks ago, relatives of the victims said they were offered 10 million euros -- including the 4.5 million already given.

Ankie Spitzer, whose husband Andre Spitzer was killed in the hostage-taking, had confirmed the planned boycott earlier in August. "Taking responsibility has a price. It is not just words," she told AFP then.

Under the agreement announced Wednesday, Germany would pay 28 million euros for the "suffering of the victims' families".

Germany will also declassify documents related to the hostage-taking and the failed rescue operation, allowing a commission of German and Israeli historians to examine the tragic events.

"After 50 years, the conditions have been created to finally come to terms with a painful chapter in our common history, acknowledging it and laying the foundation for a new and lively culture of remembrance," said government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit in a statement.

"The government now looks forward to a dignified commemoration ceremony together with the families at the event on September 5, 2022," he added.

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