German Government Announces Deal With Munich Olympics Attack Victims' Families

After threatening to boycott the 50th anniversary ceremony of the 1972 massacre, victims' families said they would attend the event following the signing of the deal

Ido Rakovsky
Ido Rakovsky
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The Israeli delegation parading during the opening of the Olympic Games in Munich, August 26, 1972.
The Israeli delegation parading during the opening of the Olympic Games in Munich, August 26, 1972.Credit: AFP
Ido Rakovsky
Ido Rakovsky

Families of Israeli athletes murdered during the 1972 Munich Olympics have reached a deal with the German federal government on Wednesday, and will attend the September 5 ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the event after threatening to boycott it unless a settlement was reached.

Reports suggested the two sides were closing in on the deal on Wednesday morning. The German government released a statement several hours later confirming that a compensation agreement was reached, although its details are unknown.

"The Federal Government [of Germany] ... is very aware of its responsibility for an intensive reappraisal of the terrible events," the statement read. "The focus is on the dignified commemoration of each individual victim as well as the still current political dimension of the attack," it added.

The deal reached between the two sides "includes reappraisal of the events by a commission of German and Israeli historians, the release of files in accordance with the law, the classification and acceptance of political responsibility...and the provision of further recognition," according to the statement.

Earlier this month, the families had threatened to boycott Monday’s 50-year anniversary ceremony in Munich organized by German authorities because they said the amount they had been offered was too low.

Shortly after the deal was closed, the presidents of Israel and Germany released a joint statement praising the agreement. "We welcome the fact that soon before the fiftieth anniversary of the massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics, an agreement has been reached for a historical inquiry, the taking of responsibility, and suitable compensation for the victims’ families," they said.

"We welcome the results of the discussions. This agreement cannot heal the wounds, but it includes an acceptance of responsibility on Germany’s part and its recognition of the terrible suffering of the victims, whom we shall commemorate next week, and of their loved ones,” they added.

Several media reports suggested that Germany increased its offer to the families to around 28 million euros (dollars), but the precise amount included in the final deal remains unknown.

Two weeks ago, Israel's Olympic Committee announced it was standing with the families in support of their struggle against the German government – and that it would not participate in the official ceremonies in Munich to commemorate the massacre. In light of the agreement, the committee has announced it will send representatives to the ceremonies next week.

"The agreements constitute the German government taking responsibility for the terrible massacre, opening a long-hidden information channel and providing adequate compensation to the families for the disaster and [their] terrible suffering," the committee said in a statement.

"For 50 years, the families have waited for justice to ease the terrible cycle of pain that began with the murder of the athletes at the Munich Olympic Games. The feelings of loss are encumbered by the families and the Israeli public, and remain open and bleeding," Olympic Committee Chairman Yael Arad said, adding that at last, the German government has taken responsibility in a "clear statement to the entire world."

The ceremony in Munich will be attended by representatives of the Olympic Committee, families, survivors, including Israeli President Isaac Herzog, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, and others.

On September 21, the Israeli ceremony commemorating the massacre will take place in Tel Aviv.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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