Family members of the victims of the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre have reached an agreement with the German government over a compensation payment, just days before the atrocity’s 50th anniversary ceremony on 5 September, which the families had planned to boycott.
“The government welcomes the fact that it was possible to agree with the relatives on an overall concept for the 50th anniversary,” said Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s spokesperson, Steffen Hebestreit, on Wednesday.
Under the arrangement, Hebestreit said, historical files on the events of 5 September 1972, in which 11 Israelis were murdered, would be released and worked on by a commission of German and Israeli historians, and there would be further “recognition payments” by the federal government, the Bavarian state and the city of Munich.
Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper reported on Tuesday that the families would receive an additional €28m (£24m).
The German president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, is also expected to become the first official German representative to issue an apology over security lapses at the 1972 Games, the newspaper reported.
“The agreement cannot heal all the wounds”, Steinmeier said in a statement on Wednesday. “But it opens a door.” The Israeli news portal Ynet said the families had signalled their intention to accept the offer.
Eleven Israeli athletes were killed by the Palestinian militant organisation Black September on 5 September 1972. One West German police officer and five of the hostage-takers were also killed during a shootout at the Fürstenfeldbruck airbase.
German authorities were later criticised for the lack of security measures and for their handling of the hostage situation, which involved deploying police officers without specialist sniper training and aborting a planned ambush after it had become clear the kidnappers could follow the police preparations on live television.
Due to restrictions in Germany’s postwar constitution, the army was not allowed to be employed domestically during peacetime. The specialist counter-terrorism branch of Germany’s police, GSG 9, would be not be founded until after the massacre.
In recent weeks, Germany’s government had reportedly made the victims’ relatives an offer of €10m, minus the €4.6m already paid in humanitarian aid in 1972 and 2002.
Ankie Spitzer, the widow of the Israeli fencing coach André Spitzer and one of the families’ spokespeople, described the offer as “a joke, an affront” and vowed to boycott the memorial ceremony, also calling on the Israeli president, Isaac Herzog, to stay away from the Munich event.
“If they don’t pay a compensation according to international standards, we won’t come at all,” Spitzer told Der Spiegel. She said the victims’ families would take part in a memorial event in Israel on 21 September, the 50th anniversary of the massacre according to the Hebrew calendar.
However, one of the victims’ relatives had criticised Spitzer for focusing their dispute on financial matters. “Conditioning their participation at the event to increased compensation by the Germans and pushing the financial issue to the forefront of discourse harms the memory and dignity of the murdered,” said Eyal Shapira, the son of the late athletics coach Amitzur Shapira.
In German official circles, there have been concerns that any compensation payment in relation to the massacre must remain in proportion to similar payouts. Families of the victims of the 2016 attack on Berlin’s Breitscheidplatz Christmas market, in which 12 people were killed and at least 67 injured, have received about €3.8m in compensation.
Lawyers representing the Israeli families cited the handling of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, after which compensation was paid of $10m (£8.6m) per victim. In that instance, however, the compensation was paid by Libya, whose government accepted responsibility for the bombing.