When the Federal President takes part in the commemoration ceremony for the victims of the Munich Olympics attack in 1972 in Fürstenfeldbruck on Monday, the head of state will end a phase of cover-up that shamed Germany’s international reputation. It took 50 years, half a century, for the official authorities to acknowledge the failure of state authorities in the fight against international terrorism and for an apology to be issued.
Frank-Walter Steinmeier wants to ask forgiveness from the families of the victims of the attack on the Israeli Olympic team in Munich on September 5th and 6th, 1972. Sorry that the German authorities were not prepared for the attack by Palestinian terrorists, despite warnings to that effect.
Because the police reacted to the hostage-taking with completely inadequate means, eleven athletes and a German policeman had to die. Five Arab terrorists were also killed.
The facts had never been in doubt. Nevertheless, German authorities denied any failure and for a long time denied the relatives of the Israeli victims access to the files. It seems downright infamous that the German discussion about the forthcoming commemoration has increasingly shifted away from concealing the facts and towards the issue of compensation for the victims. This gave the impression that the bereaved family only wanted higher payments.
Only on August 12 did government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit admit at the federal press conference that the federal government had come to a reassessment of the events. She therefore considers it necessary for Israeli and German historians to review the events.
The Federal President will probably announce the appointment of such a commission on Monday in Fürstenfeldbruck. The fact that he will not only do this in the presence of the victims’ families, but also in the presence of the Israeli head of state, Isaac Herzog, is an indicator that only dealing openly with what is happening can prevent or reduce lasting strains on the relationship between states and societies.
It remains a mystery who the decades-long German attempts to cover up and kidnap should ultimately serve. The fact that in September 1972 the carefree mood at the Munich Olympics was less about the personal failure of individual politicians or police officers than about a downright culpable carelessness in dealing with the overall situation was never out of the question.