Germany to Set Up Historians' Panel on 1972 Olympics Massacre

Amid threats to boycott the 50th-anniversary memorial in Munich, Steffen Seibert confirms Berlin's commitment to reaching a settlement with the families of those murdered at the 1972 Summer Olympics

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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The Israeli Olympic team parades in the Olympic Stadium, Munich, Aug. 26, 1972, during the opening ceremony of the 1972 Olympic Games.
The Israeli Olympic team parades in the Olympic Stadium, Munich, Aug. 26, 1972, during the opening ceremony of the 1972 Olympic Games.Credit: AP
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Germany hopes to complete three measures related to the massacre by Palestinian terrorists of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Summer Olympics before the September 5 ceremony in Munich to mark the 50th anniversary of the attack. These include establishing a commission of German and Israeli historians to conduct a comprehensive examination of the events. The panel has not yet been officially approved.

Berlin also hopes to resolve the dispute with the families of the victims regarding the amount of financial compensation they are owed. It’s not yet clear whether the families will make good on their threat to boycott the memorial over the dispute.

Steffen Seibert, Germany’s new ambassador to Israel, noted that German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier will attend the memorial and said the country’s leaders will accept responsibility for the failures surrounding the massacre and its aftermath.

Addressing a news conference he called Thursday to introduce himself to journalists, Seibert weighed in on the proposed commission. “We believe the historians should do their work. There are many unclear issues, with a lack of transparency. We want the academic assessment of experts who have access to all the information,” he said. He noted that the commission was proposed after families of the murdered athletes complained that they did not have appropriate access to documents relating to the massacre.

While Seibert noted there would be "an element of compensation," he refused to discuss the amount – which is at the core of the dispute with the families. He said that Germany was not going to put the incident behind it and regard it as history. “We want to prevent it from sinking into oblivion, so that people know what happened and remember the Israeli athletes. I hope the victims’ families find a way of attending the ceremony.”

Seibert has met on two occasions with the widows of two of the athletes, Ankie Spitzer and Ilana Romano, since his arrival in Israel a month ago. “I have great respect for what the families went through, not only in 1972, but ever since then,” he said.

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