Olympics: Families of 1972 Games victims to boycott German ceremony

Relatives instead requested "a public apology" from German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. PHOTO: AFP

JERUSALEM (AFP) - Families of Israelis killed at the Olympic Games in 1972 said on Thursday (Aug 11) they have refused a new offer of compensation by Germany and will boycott commemorations marking the 50th anniversary of the Munich tragedy.

In a letter addressed to Markus Soder, head of the German state of Bavaria, families of 11 Israelis killed during the Munich Games wrote to "decline" an invitation to memorial events on Sept 5.

The relatives instead requested "a public apology" from German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, for the country's "mistakes" and "mishandling" during the hostage crisis.

On Sept 5, 1972, eight gunmen broke into the Israeli team's flat at the Olympic village, shooting dead two and taking nine Israelis hostage, threatening to kill them unless 232 Palestinian prisoners were released.

West German police responded with a bungled rescue operation in which all nine hostages were killed, along with five of the eight hostage-takers and a police officer.

In the letter seen by AFP, families of those killed request Germany "open all the archives about the terror attack" and offer "just compensation" to them.

Ankie Spitzer, whose husband Andre Spitzer was killed as part of the Olympic team, said German authorities had agreed to a public apology and opening their archives.

But they are yet to reach a figure for compensation in accordance with "international standards," said Spitzer, a spokeswoman for the families.

The new offer amounts to €10 million (S$14.1 million) to be shared among the 23 direct family members of the victims, a figure which includes €4.5 million already given in compensation.

"They said to us they have to make it proportional to what German victims of terror received," Spitzer told AFP.

"You cannot compare it, because the local terror attack in Germany... that was a local thing in which Germany was not a guilty party," she added.

Earlier this month the families asked Israeli President Isaac Herzog to boycott next month's memorial in Germany.

His office did not immediately respond to a request to comment on the matter when contacted by AFP. The families said they would have been open to attending the commemorations if Germany had responded more openly to their requests.

"Taking responsibility has a price. It is not just words," said Spitzer.

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