Germany and the state of Bavaria were warned about a possible terror attack, but failed to prevent the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich 1972 Olympics, the German weekly Der Spiegel claimed in its new edition.
The weekly's leading story, titled, "Olympic secret case: the Munich attack – and how the state covered up its failure," claims that Germany and the state of Bavaria committed "grave errors," whose true scale "is still kept secret."
Eleven Israeli athletes and coaches were murdered on September 5, 1972, in Munich, as well as a German police officer. Three of the eight terrorists, belonging to the Palestinian Black September organization, survived the failed rescue attempt of the German police.
Der Spiegel's report reveals that concrete warnings were received a month before the Olympic Games began, but were not adequately addressed. Thus, for example, the German embassy in Beirut reported on August 14, 1972 that the "Palestinian side," planned an "event" during the Olympic Games. Four days later the German foreign office passed the report to the federal domestic intelligence agency's office (BfV) in Bavaria with the recommendation "to take all possible steps in the framework of security preparations."
The report reveals that the authorities ignored not only intelligence reports but also public warnings. On September 2, three days before the attack, the Italian magazine Gente reported that Black September terrorists were planning "a sensational action in the Olympic games."
Moreover, Der Spiegel reveals that that German police had in fact prepared for the eventuality of a Palestinian terror attack. Several days after the attack, a police detective found a document prepared for the Olympics, that included "26 scenarios," penned by Goerge Zieber, the Munich police psychologist. One of them explicitly dealt with the possibility of "Palestinian terrorists raiding the Olympic village."
Still, after the attack, when the the BfV requested these documents from the police it was told that "it is indeed true that… as part of the preparations scenarios were prepared… but there is no written evidence."
Der Spiegel's report reveals the attempts to cover up the failure. One of the documents presented in the report was written ahead of a special cabinet meeting, by a foreign office official, two days after the attack, on September 7: "We must refrain from accusing each other, and from self criticism."
Other documents, penned by the German and local Bavarian governments, reveal that the authorities did their best to cover up their failure, and present the terrorists as operating in an "accurate" manner. Der Spiegel claims that in doing so, the authorities intentionally ignored reports they had access to, reports that portrayed the terrorists as a clumsy gang, who did not prepare properly, and even had trouble reserving a hotel room in Munich.
The investigation of the attack revealed that before the massacre the Palestinians walked by the quarters of the Israeli delegation in the Olympic village, and even ran into athletes from Hong-Kong in one of the upper stories of a village building. Still, Munich police claimed, after running an "analytical appraisal" of the attack, that the terrorists "did not explore the area," before the attack. The Spiegel report presents documents proving that the Munich Prosecutor's office launched a "causing death by negligence" inquiry against the chief of police Manfred Schreiber and the commander of his special unit. These details were never made public.
Der Spiegel's story is based on secret reports from the inquiry after the attack, cabinet meeting minutes and diplomatic correspondence, which were exposed after a request by the weekly. The bodies that allowed Der Spiegel access to the documents include the Chancellor's office, the BvF and the foreign office. The full report, titled "From Dream to Terror – Munich 1972" will be aired on Sunday night at 21:45 (German time) on German channel ARD.
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