NewsGermany asks for "forgiveness" 50 years after the 1972...

Germany asks for "forgiveness" 50 years after the 1972 Munich attack

German head of state Frank-Walter Steinmeier asked on Monday “forgiveness” from the relatives of the Israeli victims of the hostage-taking at the 1972 Munich Olympics, accepting responsibility for the “failures” that accompanied that tragedy.

The commemorations of the 50th anniversary of the attack carried out by a Palestinian commando that cost the lives of eleven athletes brought together Israelis and Germans on Monday to try to heal the still open wounds of the tragedy.

On behalf of Germany, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier apologized to the relatives of the victims and took responsibility for the mistakes made by the German authorities.

“As head of state of this country and on behalf of the Federal Republic of Germany, I apologize for the lack of protection of Israeli athletes during the Olympic Games in Munich and for the lack of explanation afterwards; for the fact that happened could have happened,” said the head of state in the presence of his Israeli counterpart Isaac Herzog.

The ceremony took place at the Fürstenfeldbruck military base, some 30 kilometers west of Munich, where an ill-prepared police assault to free the hostages ended in a “bloodbath”, in the words of the German president.

“We are talking about a great tragedy and a triple failure. The first failure concerns the preparation of the Games and the concept of security. The second is the events of September 5 and 6, 1972. The third failure begins on the day after the attack: silence, repression, oblivion,” added Steinmeier.

What happened at the 1972 Munich Olympics?

The attack, on the eleventh day of the Munich Games, left an indelible mark on the history of Olympism.

Eight members of the Palestinian organization Black September attacked the Israeli delegation at dawn in their accommodation in the Olympic Village.

They killed two Israeli athletes and took nine others hostage, hoping to exchange them for more than 200 Palestinian prisoners.

After long hours of negotiations, the intervention of the German security services in the military base failed “catastrophically”, said the German president.

All nine hostages were killed in the operation, along with a West German policeman. Five of the eight hijackers were killed and the other three captured.

A total of 18 people died in the hostage-taking and many media around the world described the events as the “Munich massacre”.

The “Games of Joy”, which were to make us forget those held in Berlin in 1936 under the Nazi regime, became a failure.

“We were not prepared for such an attack, and yet we should have been,” admitted Steinmeier.

The police assault was poorly organized. German police “made not the slightest attempt to save lives,” Zvi Zamir, then head of the foreign intelligence service (Mosad), said in a declassified report in 2012.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided not to interrupt the Games.

Relatives of the deceased “hit a wall” every time they tried to get answers from Germany or the IOC, according to Israeli President Isaac Herzog.

“They don’t know what we’ve been through for the last 50 years,” Ankie Spitzer, whose husband Andrei was one of the coaches killed in Munich, told AFP.

The commemorations were on the verge of becoming a fiasco with the threat of a boycott by families who have been fighting for decades to get Germany to pay adequate compensation.

Last week, a last-minute agreement was reached and Olaf Scholz’s government agreed to pay a sum of 28 million euros (a similar figure in dollars), which will be partly assumed by the state of Bavaria and the city of Munich.

The German government had previously offered 10 million euros, including some 4.5 million already paid in 1972 and 2002.

“The attack was followed by years and decades of silence and repression, years of growing indifference to the fate of the survivors. Years of harshness,” Steinmeier said. “This is also a failure.”

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