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Why is the Munich massacre a sore point between Germany and Jewish people?


Why is the Munich massacre a sore point between Germany and Jewish people?

Fifty years after the massacre, the sentiment amongst Jews in Israel and elsewhere shows Germany should have done more.

Israeli commentators say a German apology for the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre has come a little too late, and they expected more from Germany.

Fifty years ago, on September 5, 1972, West Germany hosted the Olympic Games in Munich. 

It wanted to take the event as an opportunity to present a different picture of itself to the world, a picture of a changed Germany from three decades earlier when Adolf Hitler was at the helm and the country hosted the Games in Berlin in 1936.

But a great tragedy unfolded as eight members of the Black September militant group stormed the Olympic Village quarters hosting the Israeli delegation, killing two and taking nine others hostage.  

It began a bloody 24-hour standoff between the gunmen and German security personnel.

As the violent hostage scene concluded, worsened by the blunders of German security services, a total of 11 Israeli athletes, along with a German police officer, were dead – sparking deep dismay in the Jewish state less than three decades after the Holocaust.

German apology

This Monday, the Furstenfeldbruck Air Base, where the final showdown reached its climax, became the site of German acknowledgment of the massacre — the first officially issued, with President Frank-Walter Steinmeier asking the families of the victims for their “forgiveness”.

“As head of state of this country and on behalf of the Federal Republic of Germany, I ask your forgiveness,” Steinmeier said, addressing the victims’ families, where Israeli President Issac Herzog was also in attendance.

“I ask for your forgiveness for the lack of protection for the Israeli athletes at the Olympic Games in Munich and for the lack of trying to find explanations afterwards. It is my duty and my obligation to confess our German responsibility.”

Ofer Aderet, history correspondent at Haaretz, wrote in his analysis that Germany should have rather come to the ceremony marking 50 years of the massacre with “documents, testimonies, names of those responsible” and not an apology.

“Many empty cliches were tossed into the air … Words such as ‘responsibility’, ‘forgiveness’ and even ‘shame’ were heard again and again from German officials, led by President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. But the Germans have uttered the exact same words in the past, in regard to the Holocaust,” he said.

“Against this background, one can wonder whether these words have any meaning in German society, or whether, and this is more likely, they are simply the ones that are appropriate to say in this type of situation.”

Victims of the massacre

David Berger, 28, weightlifter

Yossef Gutfreund, 40, judge/wrestling

Moshe Weinberg, 33, coach/wrestling

Eliezer Halfin, 24, wrestler

Mark Slavin, 18, wrestler

Yaakov Springer, 51, coach/judge weightlifting

Ze’ev Friedman, 28, weightlifter

Yossef Romano, 31, weightlifter

Kehat Shorr, 53, coach/shooting

Andre Spitzer, 27, coach/fencing

Amitzur Shapira, 40, coach/track and field

Derisory compensation

Ankie Spitzer was 26 years old when her husband Andre, a coach on the Israeli fencing team, was killed by the gunmen, and the memories of that day have dominated her life ever since.

“I was only married one year and three months to Andre, we were a young couple, very much in love with a small baby, you know, we were on top of the world,” Spitzer told
Reuters ahead of the ceremony commemorating the massacre.

“I was with him at the Olympics, and I was in the room after they were murdered, just a few hours afterwards, and I looked around, everything was with blood,” she said. 

“I said to myself … if they can do this I will never shut up, I will never stop talking about it, only for one reason, so that this will never ever happen again.”

Along with other relatives and survivors, Spitzer had initially refused to attend the commemoration ceremony in Munich, angered by what they considered derisory compensation offers from Germany, until a 28 million euro settlement was reached last week.

Ilana Romano, whose husband Yossef, a weightlifter, was another of the athletes killed in the attack, said, “For me the 1972 trauma will remain. I hope that the world better understands and is ready to do more.”

Aderet, writing in Haaretz, said the amateurish behaviour surrounding the compensation to be given to the families of the victims did not leave the impression that “anyone in Germany particularly cares about the nuisance known as the ‘50th anniversary of the Munich massacre’.”

“The negotiations between representatives of the families and the German government over the compensation went down to the wire, and the families even made its resolution a condition for their participation in the ceremony,” he said. 

“Why did the parties have to wait until the last minute? Couldn’t these talks have been conducted in a dignified and respectful manner and been completed a long time ago, without the accompanying discordant chord?”

Source: TRTWorld and agencies

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