Berlin - A German academic has claimed that there is a possibility that the 11 Israeli athletes who were massacred by Palestinian militants during the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich knew of the attack in advance but willfully sacrificed themselves, the German weekly Der Spiegel reported on Saturday.

At an academic conference last week, Prof. Arnd Kruger of the Institute for Sport Studies at the University of Gottingen compared the 1929 massacre of Hebron Jews with the athletes' refusal to leave the Olympic Village despite alleged prior knowledge of the attack.

During the 1972 Summer Olympics an offshoot of the Palestinian Fatah movement called Black September took over the apartment of the Israeli team, taking them hostage. After nerve wrecking negotiations, the 11 athletes, as well as a German police officer and five of the eight perpetrators, were killed in a botched rescue attempt.

Der Spiegel's Web site quoted Kruger as saying that "the athletes sacrificed themselves in Israel's service."

Kruger told Haaretz he did not remember making such statement. He said he only sought to address unanswered questions about the massacre.

He said he was a journalist in Munich in 1972 and that he remembered Israelis telling him they think security at the Olympic Village was not tight enough.

The possibility that the Israeli team chose not to leave despite being well aware of the risk must be voiced, he said.

Kruger maintained that the fact that some of them did not run away when the terrorists came in was because of the self-sacrifice ideal of the Israeli ethos.

He said he wonders how it is possible that Shaul Ladany, who was a racewalker, managed to escape and others didn't, bearing in mind he was neither a sprinter nor a long jumper, and was visually impaired.

Kruger said he had sought to bolster his claims with sociological explanations. He said Israelis have a "different perception of the body," and that the abortion rate in Israel is relatively high.

Israeli officials in Germany were infuriated by Kruger's remarks. Ilan Mor of the Israeli embassy in Berlin told Der Spiegel that he sees it as a disturbing attempt to de-humanize Israel, and called on the university management to take disciplinary action against Kruger, who is a former dean of the social science department.

Mor said Kruger's remarks are a symptom of the "rampant anti-Semitism in Germany, often veiled under criticism of Israel."

The German Sports Sciences Association dubbed Kruger's remarks "unfortunate," and said the disciplinary board will convene next week to discuss the case.