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Germany to compensate Israeli families of 1972 Munich Olympics attack victims

The families blamed German authorities for mishandling the attack, failing to protect the athletes and covering up errors in the aftermath
A man repaints a memorial plaque near Conollystrasse street 31, the former apartment of the Israeli Olympic team who were taken hostage at the 1972 Munich Olympics, 17 August 2022 (AFP)

The German government on Wednesday agreed to compensate families of the Israeli athletes who were killed at the 1972 Munich Olympics by the Palestinian group Black September.

Gerhart Baum, a former interior minister in West Germany, said on Wednesday that the compensation would be part of "a dignified commemoration" to be held on Monday at the Furstenfeldbruck, a Nato airbase, marking the 50th anniversary of the attack.

Israel's President Isaac Herzog and Germany's President Frank-Walter Steinmeier are expected to attend the ceremony, along with the victims' families.

"It is just as important for the relatives to come to terms with what happened at the time," Baum said.

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On Tuesday, the daily Suddeutsche Zeitung reported that the German government would pay $28m to the Israeli families.

On 5 September 1972, members of the Israeli Olympic team were taken hostage at the athletes' village by Palestinian gunmen from the Black September group, who demanded the release of more than 200 prisoners. 

Within 24 hours, 11 Israelis, five Palestinians and a German policeman were dead, and three Palestinians were arrested after a standoff and subsequent botched rescue effort erupted into gunfire. 

A month after the attack, the West German government released the three members of Black September in a hostage exchange. 

The families had blamed German authorities for mishandling the attack, failing to protect the athletes and covering up errors in the aftermath.

Suddeutsche Zeitung reported that the Israeli families had threatened to boycott the commemoration ceremony, but intense negotiations reached an amicable solution. Herzog had also said that he would not attend the ceremony if the families did not show up.

Initially, the German government talked about $5.4m in compensation to be split between the families.

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The relatives, however, considered the amount "offensive" and rejected it. Suddeutsche Zeitung reported that they had asked for 10 million euros for each victim before the amount rested on $28m.

However, according to the Wall Street Journal, the law office representing the victims' families, Knoops' Advocaten, did not comment on the actual compensation figure. 

"The almost 30 million is an acceptable compromise for both sides," a source in the German government told Suddeutsche Zeitung.

Yael Arad, the president of the Olympic Committee of Israel, welcomed the compensation agreement.

"For 50 years, the families waited for justice to be done to alleviate the cycle of terrible pain that began with the murder of the athletes at the Olympic Games in Munich," Arad, who won Israel's first Olympic medal in 1992, told Srugim news.

"Finally something happened and the German government takes responsibility in a clear statement to the whole world."

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