Expert: German failures a result of WWII defeat

Germany sought accommodation "at all costs" after Munich Massacre because it was wary of conflict.

Munich Memorial R370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Baz Ratner)
Munich Memorial R370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Baz Ratner)
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 end.
“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 relationship unraveled.”
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.
But 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.”
Authorities 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 already known.
“I wasn’t surprised to hear about German complicity,” he said.
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.