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After families reach compensation deal, Herzog to attend Munich massacre memorial

Announcement of trip, participation in event comes a day after Berlin government reached agreement with relatives of Olympic victims, who had threatened to boycott ceremony

President Isaac Herzog speaks at Lohn Manor, the official estate of the Swiss Federal Council, outside Bern, August 29, 2022. (Haim Zach/GPO)
President Isaac Herzog speaks at Lohn Manor, the official estate of the Swiss Federal Council, outside Bern, August 29, 2022. (Haim Zach/GPO)

President Isaac Herzog will visit Germany next week on an official state visit, his office announced Thursday, and will attend an official memorial ceremony marking 50 years since the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre.

Herzog and his wife Michal, who were invited by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, will be in Germany September 4-6.

The announcement of Herzog’s trip came a day after Germany said it reached an agreement on compensation with the families of the 11 Israelis athletes killed by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Olympics. The families had previously threatened to boycott the memorial ceremony, saying the compensation offered had been too low.

Relatives of the athletes have long criticized how German authorities handled the attack and its aftermath.

The German president and his Israeli counterpart Herzog welcomed the agreement on Wednesday.

“We are pleased and relieved that an agreement on historical clarification, recognition and compensation has been reached shortly before the 50th anniversary,” Steinmeier said in a joint statement with Herzog.

“The agreement cannot heal all wounds. But it opens a door to each other,” the statement said. “With this agreement, the German state acknowledges its responsibility and recognizes the terrible suffering of the murdered and their relatives, which we will commemorate next week.”

A memorial plaque for the eleven athletes from Israel and one German police officer were killed in a terrorist attack during the Olympic Games 1972, stands at the former accommodation of the Israeli team in the Olympic village in Munich, Germany, August 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

The negotiations over the amount of compensation and the release of further historical documents had been a lingering point of friction between the two countries, which have built strong ties despite the enduring legacy of the Holocaust.

The German news agency dpa and other media reported that Germany increased its offer to the families to around 28 million euros, up from the initial 10 million euros offer to the families, which would have included the payments already made. Of this, the federal government is to bear 22.5 million euros, the state of Bavaria 5 million euros and the city of Munich 500,000 euros, dpa reported.

The German government has not publicly revealed how much money it has offered.

While in Germany, Herzog will also hold meetings with Steinmeier and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, address the Bundestag and visit the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

File: German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier addresses the media during a statement at Bellevue Palace in Berlin, Germany, February 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn, File)

Members of the Palestinian group Black September broke into the Olympic Village, killed two athletes from Israel’s national team and took nine more hostage on September 5, 1972. The attackers hoped to force the release of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel as well as two left-wing extremists in West German jails.

All nine hostages and a West German police officer died during a rescue attempt by German forces. Relatives of the athletes accuse Germany of failing to secure the Olympic Village, refusing Israeli help and then botching the rescue operation.

The 11 Israeli Munich victims.
The 11 Israeli Munich Olympics victims.

Immediately after the attack, Germany made payments to relatives of the victims amounting to about 4.19 million marks (about 2 million euros or dollars), according to the country’s interior ministry. In 2002, the surviving relatives received an additional 3 million euros, Germany’s dpa news agency reported.

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