Some 50 years after 11 Olympic athletes from Israel were killed in what became known as the Munich massacre, the German government has reached a deal with their families. Israeli President Isaac Herzog and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier announced the agreement Wednesday, days ahead of a commemoration of the Sept. 5, 1972, attack that families had threatened to boycott, the Wall Street Journal reports. According to reports in the German media, the agreement includes $28 million in compensation for the families, some of which has already been paid.
During the Munich Olympics, members of the Palestinian terrorist group Black September broke into the Olympic Village, killing two Israeli athletes and taking nine others hostage. All the hostages were killed, along with a West German police officer and five of the eight terrorists, during a botched rescue attempt. A spokesman for German Chancellor Olaf Schol said the agreement includes the "reappraisal of the events by a commission of German and Israeli historians" and "the release of files in accordance with the law," the AP reports.
"With this agreement, the German state acknowledges its responsibility and recognizes the terrible suffering of the murdered and their relatives, which we will commemorate next week," Herzog and Steinmeier said in a joint statement. Deutsche Welle lists some of the failures that led to calls for compensation and a fresh investigation of the attack.
- West German authorities, seeking to present a friendly image, kept the police presence at the Games to a minimum. When the terrorists attacked, only two of the 34 officers on duty at the Olympic Village were armed, though German security services had received multiple warnings about a possible Palestinian attack.
- The West German government rejected Israel's offer to send elite forces to launch a rescue operation. Only two people from Israel's security services were allowed into the country, including then-Mossad chief Tzvi Zamir, and they were only allowed to observe the operation.
- The attack was considered a "civil matter" under West German law, meaning the military was not allowed to get involved and it was handled by Bavarian police, who had little relevant training. The police sharpshooters who were supposed to neutralize the terrorists at an airport had no specialist sniper traning and were not in radio contact with each other—and there were only five of them assigned to take down eight militants.
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