Commemoration of the Olympic attack: Steinmeier asks for forgiveness

50 years ago, Palestinian terrorists killed 11 Israeli Olympic athletes. Much of the memorial service was about apologies.

Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier stands at the Fürstenfeldbruck air base and commemorates the victims of the Munich attack in 1972

Commemoration in Fürstenfeldbruck of the attack on the Israeli team in 1972 Photo: Sven Hoppe/dpa

BERLIN taz | They have 50 years Relatives of the victims of the Olympic attack waiting for these words since 1972. At the central commemoration of the terrorist attack at the Fürstenfeldbruck air base, Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier asked the relatives for forgiveness. “We cannot make up for what happened,” said the Federal President. This shames him.

“As the head of state of this country and on behalf of the Federal Republic of Germany, I ask your forgiveness for the lack of protection for the Israeli athletes at the Olympic Games in Munich and for the lack of information afterwards.” The trauma of Munich would have entered the collective memory of the people in buried Israel.

The commemoration event on Monday was attended by many relatives of the victims of the attack, as well as the Israeli President Izchak Herzog. He, Steinmeier as well as Federal Minister of the Interior Nancy Faeser (SPD) and Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Söder (CSU) laid wreaths at the tower of the air base at the beginning.

“For decades, Germany and the International Olympic Committee failed to commemorate the victims,” ​​said Herzog. To the pain of the victims came the pain of being forgotten. There are no words to comfort the family. “Let us always cherish the memory of the victims of the massacre in our hearts.”

Facilitate agreement on compensation

Until a few days ago, it was unclear whether the bereaved would attend the event. After tough negotiations, also with the mediation of the former Federal Minister of the Interior Gerhart Baum (FDP), an agreement on compensation payments was reached. In the end, recognition payments totaling 28 million euros were agreed, 22.5 million of which will be paid by the federal government, 5 million euros will come from Bavaria and 500,000 euros from the state capital Munich.

Files on the events of that time are still under lock and key and the exact course of events is unclear. A commission of historians is now tasked with examining the act of terrorism and the circumstances before and after it. In the run-up to the memorial event, Federal Interior Minister Faeser said she was relieved that the families had been able to communicate. “After the 1972 Olympic attack, nagging questions remained unanswered for far too long.” She was “very grateful for the trust placed in the victims’ families.”

On September 5, 1972, Palestinian terrorists took members of the Israeli crew hostage. They demanded the release of more than 200 prisoners in Israel and the RAF terrorists Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof. Around 18 hours later, a rescue attempt at the airfield in Fürstenfeldbruck ended in a bloodbath. Eleven Israelis died, a policeman from Bavaria and five terrorists. the Olympic Games in Munich continued despite the attack.

Federal Interior Minister Faeser emphasized the importance of a complete reappraisal of the events be. This is a “duty”. Decades of justified criticism from historians and survivors must have consequences. “Talking and remembering is good and necessary. But consistent action is also part of it,” said Faeser. And she referred to German-Israeli security cooperation, which is close and built on great trust. She reiterated that the federal government would fight against any form of anti-Semitism.

“Bringing light into this dark chapter”

Federal President Steinmeier also welcomed the establishment of the Israeli-German Commission in his speech. He hopes that she will be able to “bring more light into this dark chapter”. Steinmeier spoke of failure, of deadly mistakes. Commemoration can only be sincere if one is ready for painful insights.

Steinmeier repeatedly emphasized his duty and his need to “acknowledge German responsibility”. And: “The friendship, the reconciliation that Israel has given us is no less than a miracle.” The basis for this is trust that was so damaged fifty years ago.

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