German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Monday asked for forgiveness at a ceremony to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1972 Munich Olympics attacks on Israeli athletes and team members at the airfield near Munich where a failed rescue attempt took place.
Steinmeier said Germany should shoulder its share of responsibilities for the failures to protect the athletes and for taking decades to compensate the victims' families.
"We cannot make right what happened," Steinmeier said in his speech. "I am ashamed. As head of state of this country and in the name of the Federal Republic of Germany I ask for forgiveness for insufficient protection of the athletes, for insufficient resolution of this matter."
"In the name of the Federal Republic of Germany, I ask for forgiveness for insufficient protection of the athletes"German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier
Members of the Israeli Olympic team were taken hostage on September 5, 1972 at the athletes' village by Palestinians from the Black September group.
11 Israelis, a German policeman as well as five Palestinian gunmen died after a stand-off at the Olympic village and the nearby Fuerstenfeldbruck airfield, as rescue efforts erupted into gunfire.
The Games continued despite the attacks and the IOC for almost half a century ignored calls from the victims' families for an official act of remembrance at an Olympic Games ceremony.
IOC attempts to pay respect to victims, 50 years on
The IOC eventually held a moment of silence and a reference to the Munich Games victims last year at the Tokyo summer Olympics opening ceremony - the first time in almost half a century.
Steinmeier said both German security forces and state authorities had failed in their roles, much to the suffering of relatives.
"You have the right to finally get answers to the questions that have tortured you," he said, with Israeli victims' relatives present at the ceremony. "Also an answer to the question why you were left alone with your pain for so long."
As flags across all state buildings in the Bavarian capital flew at half-mast, Israeli President Isaac Herzog and Steinmeier laid a wreath at the site.
The ceremony was attended by International Olympic Committee (IOC) chief Thomas Bach and other officials.
The ceremony to mark the attacks was welcomed by relatives of the victims and Israel's government but Monday's memorial had been put at risk by families threatening to boycott it over Germany's compensation offer.
The German government and the Israeli families agreed on Friday on a compensation offer totalling 28 million euros, with the federal government contributing 22.5 million euros, while 5 million euros will come from the state of Bavaria and 500,000 euros will come from Munich.