Germany’s weak and muddled response to the Munich Massacre in 1972, painfully
detailed in hundreds of declassified documents released by Israel on Wednesday,
was a direct result of the country’s defeat in World War II, explained Prof.
Moshe Zimmermann of the Hebrew University.
The director of the Richard
Koebner Minerva Center for German History said leaders of the pro-Western part
of country at the time sought “peace at all costs” just 27 years after the war’s
“Germany had learned its lesson from the war and sought agreement
rather than conflict,” he said.
“If a terror group threatened you, the
way to deal with would be to accommodate them. After all, the Germans used the
most flimsy excuse to release the terrorists,” Zimmermann said, referring to
Bonn’s decision to release two of the terrorists behind the attack less than two
months after it took place.
Two events led West Germany to eventually
abandon its previous policy, he said. The first was the successful storming by
German commandos of Lufthansa Flight 181 that was hijacked by Palestinian
terrorists in 1977. The second event was Willy Brandt’s replacement with Helmut
Schmidt as Chancellor of West Germany in 1974.
“Brandt was closer to the
PLO through the Socialist International,”
Zimmermann said. “With Schmidt that
The new body of evidence highlighting Germany’s
failures during, and in the wake of, the massacre of 11 Israeli sportsmen at the
1972 Olympic Games has made headlines in that country and Israel.
those expecting renewed investigations or some other form of reckoning might be
disappointed, he said.
“It’s just irrelevant,” said Zimmermann. “They’ve
already done their soul searching.
They set up a federal police to take
over in emergencies and resolved the PLO problem. What irks Germans today are
the more recent revelations that a Neo-Nazi group killed 10 people without being
stopped and they are asking how could that have happened.”
are currently trying suspects believed to have killed 10 people of Turkish
descent, as well as a policewoman, between 2000 and 2007.
Zimmermann, an oft quoted and sometimes controversial Israeli expert on ties with Germany, said
most of the previously classified information released by the government was
“I wasn’t surprised to hear about German complicity,” he
Zimmermann said the new information about Germany’s role in 1972
would probably not effect the current government’s policy towards Hezbollah,
which Israel would like outlawed.
“Banning groups in Germany is always
difficult, although it has [been] already done, so when it was proven that
Islamist groups had violated laws...” he said.