Germany takes responsibility for Munich Massacre

The move comes ahead of the 50th anniversary of the murders of 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team who were taken hostage at the poorly secured athletes’ village by armed Palestinian terrorists from the Black September (BSO) faction linked to the Fatah wing of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) headed at the time by Yasser Arafat

By Erin Viner

Germany has reached agreement on further compensation for families of the Israeli athletes who were killed on 5 September 1972 at the Munich Olympics, according to a joint statement by the German and Israeli presidents.

“We welcome the fact that soon before the fiftieth anniversary of the massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics, an agreement has been reached for a historical inquiry, the taking of responsibility, and suitable compensation for the victims’ families. We welcome the results of the discussions. This agreement cannot heal the wounds, but it includes an acceptance of responsibility on Germany’s part and its recognition of the terrible suffering of the victims, whom we shall commemorate next week, and of their loved ones,” said Israeli President Isaac Herzog and his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

President Herzog commended “the many years of intensive activity by the bereaved families, the Olympic Committee of Israel, staff at the Israeli and German embassies” that assisted in advancing “compensation for the families of the victims of the Munich massacre, in order to bring this painful episode to a place of healing and justice for the bereaved families,” said the statement. The Israeli leader has maintained ongoing and in-depth contacts for several months with representatives of the bereaved families, while also speaking regularly with President Steinmeier and discussing with him the importance of Germany offering compensation and taking responsibility and working with the above-mentioned parties to reach the offer.

“I thank my friend, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, for his leadership and uncompromising commitment to a path of justice, humanity, and responsibility,” said Herzog, underscoring that, “This is not the first time that President Steinmeier has proven that he is a close friend of Israel and that his work makes a mighty contribution to the warm relationship between Israel and Germany.”

President Herzog also expressed appreciation “for this important step” taken 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.”

“I believe that 50 years after this catastrophe, the time has come to find relief for the bereaved families and to reaffirm the lessons of this tragedy, including the importance of fighting terror, for future generations,” he added.

The President of the Federal Republic of Germany stated, “My thoughts are with the bereaved families. I am grateful and relieved that a solution was found that opens the door to a joint commemoration. I also thank my friend and colleague Isaac Herzog for his trust and engagement, and for keeping the conversation open.”

The German government decision was based on documentation by a commission of German and Israeli historians into the 1972 terror attack, which left claimed the lives of the 11 Israelis and a German policeman within 24 hours of the Palestinian assault after a standoff and subsequent rescue effort erupted into gunfire. Five of the terrorists were also killed.

“In doing so, Germany is fulfilling its historical obligation towards the victims and their families,” said government spokesperson Steffen Hebestreit.

While Berlin did not disclose the financial terms of compensation due to confidentiality of talks with the victims’ representatives, Germany’s DPA news agency was cited by the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper as listing the amount at € 28 million Euros ($28.02 million) of which the federal government would cover €22.5 million Euros.

Earlier this month, the German Interior Ministry said that the federal government, the state of Bavaria and city of Munich had decided to offer additional payments to surviving relatives of the victims above previous sums; reportedly entailing DM 4.19 million Deutsche Marks (about €2 million Euros) allotted in the immediate wake of the massacre and another 3 million euros in 2002.

Since the end of the Nazi Holocaust and World War Two, during which at least 6 million European Jews were murdered, Berlin has felt a special responsibility toward the Jewish People and the Jewish State.