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Germany sets up probe into 1972 Munich Olympics attack

April 21, 2023

Eleven Israeli athletes and one policeman died in the 1972 Munich Olympics attack. Germany reached a compensation deal with the bereaved families last year.

https://p.dw.com/p/4QO28
black and white photo of a burned out helicopter on Fürstenfeldbruck airfield
Last year, Germany agreed to an increased €28 million payout for the victims' relatives Image: dpa/picture alliance

The German government has appointed a commission to re-examine the attack on Israeli athletes and team members at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games, Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said in a statement on Friday.  

"For too many years, there was a lack of understanding or reappraisal of the events, transparency about them or acceptance of responsibility for them," she said.

The project is part of an agreement Germany reached with the victims' families last year, including a compensation offer of €28 million ($30.6 million).

The deal was an attempt to bring closure to the events of September 1972, when the Summer Olympic Games in Munich took a tragic turn — and led to a bitter 50-year long dispute between the bereaved Israeli families and the German government.

The 1972 Munich Olympics massacre

What happened in 1972?

On September 5, 1972, Palestinians from the Black September militant group broke into the Israeli Olympic team's quarters in the Bavarian capital.

They shot and killed weightlifter Yossef Romano and wrestling coach Mosche Weinberg and took nine other Israelis as hostages.

In exchange for their release, the hostage-takers demanded the release of 234 prisoners held in Israel and West Germany.

A botched rescue operation by the West German authorities left all nine hostages dead. Five hostage-takers and a German police officer were also killed.

The terror attack caused a deep rift between Germany and Israel, just 27 years after the Holocaust, during which Nazi Germany murdered over 6 million Jews.

It also shattered the West German government's hope to use the international sporting event to present the country and its people in a new, friendlier light.

Germany asks forgiveness over 1972 Munich massacre

Long wait for family members

Family members of the victims had long demanded that the German state take responsibility and pay them a fair compensation.

Last year, Germany agreed to an increased €28 million payout for relatives.

 At a ceremony to mark the 50th anniversary of the attack last year, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier asked for forgiveness from the families.

Over the past decade, efforts have been made to remember and confront the events — for example, by setting up a memorial in Munich's Olympic Park.

sri/nm (AFP, Reuters, EPD)