By Jacob Gurvis
All but one of the family members of the 11 Israeli athletes murdered during the 1972 Munich Olympics are planning to boycott a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the incident, calling the financial compensation that the German government will offer them “a joke.”
According to a German government memo obtained by The New York Times, various agencies have thus far paid a total of 4.6 million euros ($4.8 million) to the families, and Germany is expected to offer an additional 5.4 million euros ($5.6 million).
The families are reportedly asking for a sum about 20 times larger than that and are urging Israel’s government to join in boycotting the ceremony, saying that Germany’s actions before, during and after the incident were insufficient and left the Israeli athletes at risk. Details have emerged suggesting that Germany had advance notice of a threat of violence.
“The level of state responsibility of Germany, as we know it now, is far more extensive compared to the facts which were known in 1972-2020,” a lawyer representing the families told the Times. “Ample evidence was recently discovered which shows that the Government not only failed in the protection of the athletes but was also instrumental in the cover up of its failure.”
During the second week of the 1972 Games, in the incident now known as the Munich Massacre, the Palestinian terrorist group Black September held six coaches and five athletes from Israel’s team hostage in their Olympic village apartment before brutally killing them. A West German police officer was also killed in the violence.
Israel and Germany have enjoyed very close relations since 1965, and this is a rare occasion that could cause tension.
“Ties with Germany are very important and probably surpass everything else,” Ankie Spitzer, widow of the slain Israeli fencing coach Andrei Spitzer who is representing the families in meetings with Israeli President Isaac Herzog, told the Times. Herzog is currently slated to attend the Sept. 5 ceremony in Munich.
Spitzer was a leading voice in the longstanding effort to convince the International Olympic Committee to acknowledge the massacre with an official ceremony, which it did in 2016 and at last summer’s opening ceremony.
Spitzer urged Israel to “say publicly what everyone is saying quietly fearing to insult the Germans — it’s time to finally compensate the families of the victims for the terrible failures that led to the death of Andrei and the other 10 athletes, and for all the lies and cover-ups in the last 50 years.”