05.09.2022, Bayern, Fürstenfeldbruck: Bundespräsident Frank-Walter Steinmeier, nimmt an der Gedenkveranstaltung auf dem Fliegerhorst zum 50. Jahrestag des Anschlags auf israelische Sportler bei den Olympischen Spielen 1972 in München teil. Foto: Sven Hoppe/dpa +++ dpa-Bildfunk +++

In a historic speech, 50 years after the Munich Olympics attack, Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier apologized to the families of the killed Israeli athletes.

As the German head of state, he is asking for forgiveness, Steinmeier said on Monday at a commemoration event at the Fürstenfeldbruck air base. Bavaria’s Prime Minister Markus Söder (CSU) and Munich’s Mayor Dieter Reiter (SPD) also apologized for mistakes in their current areas of responsibility.

Eleven Israeli athletes were killed in an attack during the 1972 Olympic Games. A large number of failures by the German organizers of the games to protect the athletes and the mistakes made by the German police when trying to free the hostages are considered to be the reasons why the Olympic attack claimed so many lives. In addition to the eleven athletes, a Bavarian policeman also died.

In his speech, Steinmeier addressed the relatives of those who died, who had come to Bavaria as guests for the commemoration.

The Federal President said: “I ask you, as the head of state of this country and on behalf of the Federal Republic of Germany, for your forgiveness for the lack of protection for the Israeli athletes at the Olympic Games in Munich and for the lack of information afterwards – for the fact that what happened could happen .”

In addition to relatives of the killed athletes, Israel’s President Isaac Herzog also took part in the public commemoration. Herzog thanked Steinmeier “from the bottom of my heart” for his “courageous, historic speech”.

He also emphasized Steinmeier’s role in the negotiations on compensation payments, which were successfully concluded just last week. The families will receive 28 million euros, and further steps will be taken to investigate the attack.

The Israeli President called for the memory of the Olympic attack to be preserved permanently. “The world must not forget what happened at the Olympic Games in Munich.” The world must not forget that the fight against terror must be waged together.

Ankie Spitzer, the spokeswoman for the victims’ families, said that after 50 years, the relatives had achieved their goal with the agreement with the federal government. Her husband can now rest in peace. However, she is now being asked again and again whether she can now personally find a degree. But she cannot do this. “The hole in my heart won’t heal.”

In addition to Steinmeier, Bavaria’s Prime Minister Söder and Munich’s Mayor Reiter also addressed words of apology to the relatives. Söder said: “I expressly apologize on behalf of the Free State of Bavaria for the mistakes and omissions that were made at the time.” Reiter also apologized for failures at the municipal level in Munich.

The handling of the German side with the Olympic assassination over the years and decades had been sharply criticized by the relatives again and again. In addition to the lack of a compensation solution, they also complained about the lack of an apology.

A Palestinian commando entered the Munich Olympic site on September 5, 1972 and took members of the Israeli team hostage. The escalated rescue operation took place hours later at the Fürstenfeldbruck air base.

Steinmeier said that responsibility for the assassination lay with the Palestinian perpetrators and their Libyan helpers. “It is very bitter that there is not a word of sympathy, not a word of regret from today’s political representatives of these countries.”

The President of the Jewish community in Munich and Upper Bavaria, Charlotte Knobloch, thanked the representatives of German politics in particular for the fact that the dispute over the processing of the assassination attempt is now over. “Without any possibility of influencing the events of that time, you have taken on responsibility today – for the healing of old wounds.”