Munich Massacre families agree to compensation with German government

After days of intensive negotiations, the German government will reportedly pay close to 30 million euros to the bereaved families.

 A stone cutter renovates a memorial stone for the 11 Israeli athletes killed by Palestinian terrorists during the 1972 Olympic Games, at the site of the hostage-taking at the former Olympic Village in Munich, Germany, August 18, 2022 (photo credit: REUTERS/WOLFGANG RATTAY)
A stone cutter renovates a memorial stone for the 11 Israeli athletes killed by Palestinian terrorists during the 1972 Olympic Games, at the site of the hostage-taking at the former Olympic Village in Munich, Germany, August 18, 2022
(photo credit: REUTERS/WOLFGANG RATTAY)

Families of the 1972 Munich Olympics Massacre victims have reached a compensation agreement with the German government that could end the families’ boycott of the 50th-anniversary ceremony on September 5, President Isaac Herzog and his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier announced on Wednesday.

After days of intensive negotiations, the German government will pay close to 30 million euros to the 11 families, according to German media.

In line with the arguments by the relatives that the West German government had covered up its failures regarding the terrorist attack, Steinmeier was said to be planning to apologize for the government’s mistakes. He would be the first German president to do so. Further, it was reported that at the ceremony, Steinmeier would announce a special commission to review the history of the event.

In a joint statement, the two heads of state said that while the agreement “can’t heal the wounds,” it includes an “acceptance of responsibility” by Germany for the terrorist attack. Steinmeier added that he was “grateful and relieved” to find a solution for the bereaved families.

“Fifty years after this catastrophe, the time has come to find relief for the bereaved families and to reaffirm the lessons of this tragedy, including the importance of fighting terror, for future generations,” Herzog said in the joint statement.

"50 years after this catastrophe, the time has come to find relief for the bereaved families"

Israeli President Isaac Herzog

Boycott of the Munich Massacre ceremony

In an act of protest, all but one member of the victims’ families had decided to boycott the upcoming 50th-anniversary ceremony, The New York Times reported last month. That family had been insulted by the meager compensation offered and the lack of responsibility taken by the German government.

Herzog had been expected to attend the ceremony but was put in a difficult position by the families’ call for him not to attend.

 Israelis attend a memorial service in Athens August 19, 2004, for the athletes of Israel who were killed at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich (credit: YIORGOS KARAHALIS/REUTERS) Israelis attend a memorial service in Athens August 19, 2004, for the athletes of Israel who were killed at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich (credit: YIORGOS KARAHALIS/REUTERS)

Germany's failure to address terrorism

During the Olympic Games in 1972, Palestinian terrorists from the PLO-affiliated Black September group stormed the athletes’ village and killed 11 Israeli athletes and coaches as well as a German policeman.

West Germany was heavily criticized for its handling of the incident. The athletes’ village, where the initial attack took place, was reportedly poorly secured. Advice from Israeli security officials on how to deal with the situation was reportedly ignored. A bumbled rescue operation at the airport resulted in the execution of the Israeli athletes.

Leaked reports indicated that German authorities had also ignored intelligence of an impending attack, and covered up the fact. Later, the surviving terrorists were released as ransom in a hijacking of a Lufthansa flight, which some analysts and experts alleged was at least partially staged to further conceal the government’s failures.

Abbas's refusal to apologize

Last month, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas refused to apologize for the terrorist attack during a press briefing with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

“If you want to go over the past, go ahead. I have 50 slaughters that Israel committed... 50 massacres, 50 slaughters... 50 holocausts,” said Abbas, whose comments resulted in international outrage.

As part of the PLO, Abbas is alleged to have provided the funds used to finance Black September’s 1972 operation in Munich.
Michael Starr and JPS contributed to this report.