Germany to pay official reparations to surviving relatives of 1972 Olympics massacre

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The German government has announced it will give compensation to relatives of the victims of the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre, after a “complete and comprehensive reappraisal of the events of that time.”

The Federal Ministry of the Interior said it intends to make joint payments, along with the Free State of Bavaria and the state capital Munich, in order to “articulate the serious consequences for the surviving relatives,” a ministry spokesman told Sueddeutsche Zeitung on Wednesday. The amount of the reparations remains unclear.  

A commemoration ceremony on September 5, the 50th anniversary of the attack, should be an occasion to make a clear political statement on the 1972 massacre, according to the ministry, which said it is also planning to appoint a commission of German and Israeli historians to “comprehensively review” what happened that day.

During the 1972 Olympics in Munich, terrorists from the Palestinian Black September organization took members of the Israeli team hostage in the Olympic village, and attempted to have hundreds of imprisoned Palestinian sympathizers released in exchange. The situation ended in a massacre at the Fürstenfeldbruck air base, where 11 Israelis and a German policeman lost their lives.

Both German authorities and the police have been accused of serious failures surrounding the massacre, but no one was held responsible. Earlier payments to victims’ families, made in 1972 and 2002, were small and labeled as humanitarian aid by the government in order to avoid issuing an official apology.

The new announcement marks a breakthrough in the ongoing reparations negotiations between Germany and the representatives of the victims.

Ankie Spitzer, widow of the assassinated fencing coach Andre Spitzer and spokesperson for the victims’ families, had canceled a visit to Munich earlier this week because of stalled compensation talks, and had also recently rejected an invitation to speak at a university commemoration event in Munich and take part in a joint visit to a memorial site with Bavarian premier Markus Söder.