Families of Israeli Olympic Team Murdered at 1972 Munich Games Plan to Boycott German Ceremony Marking the 50th Anniversary of Attack
Edited by: Fern Sidman
The Bild newspaper in Germany reported on Thursday that the families of Israeli athletes murdered at the 1972 Munich Olympics plan to boycott a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the attack in a conflict with German authorities over compensation, as was indicated in a Reuters report.
Bild cited a letter written by widows of the Israeli Olympic team who said to the premier of the state of Bavaria, “50 years of insults, lies, humiliation and rejection by the German government and especially the Bavarian authorities are more than enough.”
In June of this year, the Associated Press reported that authorities in Bavaria say they are releasing all previously unpublished files on the attack at the 1972 Munich Olympics following criticism from relatives of the 11 Israeli athletes and coaches who died there.
Joachim Herrmann, the top security official in the southern German state, said in June that Bavaria will no longer keep any files under wraps, but conceded that federal authorities might still hold confidential files, as was reported by the AP.
The Palestinian terror group Black September took numerous members of the Israeli team hostage on Sept. 5, 1972, with the goal of forcing the release of prisoners held by Israel and two members of the German leftwing Baader Meinhoff terror group in German jails, according to the AP report. Eleven Israelis and a West German police officer died during a botched rescue attempt. Financing for the September 1972 attacks by Black September was orchestrated by Mahmoud Abbas, the current president of the Palestinian Authority.
In a recent interview conducted by Israel Hayom with Klaus Langhoff, one of the East German athletes housed across the street from the Israeli Olympic team on that fateful day, Langhoff, a handball player, who is now 82, spoke about the moments of horror.
“Around 5 am, the head of our delegation woke me up … and told me, ‘Klaus, go through all our rooms and tell our athletes that in the building across from us, about 15 meters away, where the Israeli delegation was staying, there was a terrorist attack. We don’t know exactly what happened, but everyone needs to stay in their rooms and lock the doors and windows that face the street.’ We weren’t allowed to leave the building to go to the dining room for breakfast. We were told to wait for further instructions,” Langhoff recounts.
Langhoff added: “I think I heard shots in my sleep, but it didn’t wake me up. I had a room of my own. In our building there were rooms for five people, three people, two people and singles. From my room, I could see straight to what was happening across from us, mostly the entrance to the Israeli delegation’s building, where negotiations with the terrorists were taking place.”
The Israel Hayom article also stated that “even before the 1967 Six-Day War, East Germany was the most hostile to Israel of all the members of the communist bloc, most of which cut ties with Israel entirely after the war. The East Germans never had relations with Israel. The East Germans did, however, have close ties with Israel’s Arab enemies, including the PLO. At the end of October 1971, a delegation led by Yasser Arafat visited East Berlin and was promised increased aid. As early as the Six-Day War, the East German regime had considered military intervention on the Arabs’ side, and in the 1973 Yom Kippur War decided to send planes and pilots to Syria, who wound up not joining the war because a ceasefire agreement was signed before they could do so.”
Complaints about persistent secrecy surrounding the files had threatened to overshadow a planned memorial event on September 5th for the 50th anniversary of the attack. The AP reported that some relatives of those killed have also demanded compensation from Germany, something the government has rejected.
Reuters reported that a spokesperson for Germany’s interior ministry said it would like the families to take part.
Reuters was unable to immediately contact any of the widows of the victims. Nobody at the Bavarian government was available to comment.
A spokesperson for Germany’s interior ministry said the government had intensified its work on remembering the victims and the deep human and political dimension of the attack as the 50th anniversary approached, as was reported by Reuters.
“The government, state of Bavaria and city of Munich have decided to offer families more than the payments (that have) already been made,” said the spokesperson, adding it regretted that no agreement had yet been reached, Reuters reported.
“The government stresses its willingness to continue the talks,” said the spokesperson.
Reuters reported that when Ilana Romano, wife of weightlifter Joseph Romano who was one of the victims was asked last month about the compensation offer, she told Israeli radio station 103fm: “It’s humiliating. It won’t help them. We will boycott the ceremony. Maybe they will learn the hard way.”
Speaking to the New York Times, Ankie Spitzer, whose husband Andrei was one of the 11 murdered Israelis said: “We expect President Herzog to also announce, immediately, that he is not coming.”
She added that, “If the families don’t travel, he shouldn’t travel either because if he is there, even to lay a wreath, it will legitimize this cruel German behavior.”
According to The New York Times, Berlin has paid out $4.8 million in compensation and has offered a further $5.58 million to 23 remaining family members, but the families are seeking 20 times that sum, as was reported by World Israel News.
Speaking to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, Ilana Romano said of the offer, “It is degrading, and we are standing by our stance that we are boycotting the anniversary ceremony.” WIN reported that she added that the compensation would be rejected.
“They decided to take responsibility — very nice after 50 years,” Romano said, adding that she expected real compensation, not “pennies,” as was reported by WIN.
“If the German government thinks it can wrap up this matter according to terms set for of a domestic terror attack, they are wrong,” she said. “They will pay in accordance to international standards in terror attacks. The Palestinian terrorists cannot be given more money than the victims.”
“Three of the terrorists survived and were soon freed after a trumped up plane hijacking, and the pursuant negotiations, with $9 million,” she said, as was reported by WIN.