Families of Munich Olympics victims vow to boycott memorial over compensation battle

Ankie Spitzer, wife of murdered fencing coach Andre Spitzer, calls on President Herzog to also stay away from 50th-anniversary event, citing German government’s ‘degrading’ offer

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

Families of the Israelis murdered by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Munich Olympics said they will boycott a memorial ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the attack due to a dispute with the German government over compensation.

The ceremony is scheduled to take place in Munich in September, with President Isaac Herzog slated to attend.

“We expect President Herzog to also announce, immediately, that he is not coming,” Ankie Spitzer told The New York Times in comments published Wednesday. Her late husband, Andre Spitzer, was the coach of the Israeli fencing team and was among the 11 Israelis killed at the Munich games.

“If the families don’t travel, he shouldn’t travel either because if he is there, even to lay a wreath, it will legitimize this cruel German behavior,” she added.

The 11 families believe that the German government owes them more money, while The New York Times revealed that Berlin has already forked over $4.8 million in compensation.

Germany has offered an additional $5.58 million to 23 remaining family members, according to an internal memo obtained by the newspaper, but lawyers for the bereaved families are seeking 20 times that amount.

Ilana Romano, center, and Ankie Spitzer, right, widows of Israeli Olympic athletes killed by Palestinian gunmen at the 1972 Munich Olympics, attend a memorial in their husbands’ honor, ahead of the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, August 3, 2016. (AP Photo/Edgard Garrido, Pool)

Members of the Palestinian group Black September broke into the Olympic Village and took athletes from Israel’s national team hostage on September 5, 1972, with the goal of forcing the release of prisoners held by Israel and of two left-wing extremists in West German jails.

Eleven Israelis and a West German police officer were killed during the attack, including during a botched rescue attempt.

Relatives of the athletes have long criticized how German authorities handled the attack and its aftermath. Demands for further compensation have threatened to overshadow the planned memorial event for the 50th anniversary.

Immediately after the massacre, Germany made payments to the relatives of the victims amounting to about 4.19 million marks (about 2 million euros or $2.09 million), according to the Interior Ministry. In 2002, the surviving relatives received another 3 million euros, the German dpa news agency reported.

A report last month — citing families of the victims — claimed that Germany had offered a total package of 10 million euros ($10.34 million) to the families, which would include previously made payments.

Germany’s Interior Ministry said it was holding talks with the relatives and that the “serious consequences for the surviving dependents of the victims in immaterial and material terms” should be reassessed.

A member of the terrorist group Black September, which seized members of the Israeli Olympic team at their quarters during the 1972 Munich Olympics (photo credit: AP/Kurt Strumpf)
A member of the Palestinian terrorist group Black September, which killed 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team, during the 1972 Munich Olympics. (AP/Kurt Strumpf)

“An offer of further recognition payments to the surviving relatives of the victims of the attack” was planned, the ministry told dpa, adding that “the memorial ceremony of the 50th anniversary should be the occasion for a clear political classification of the events of 1972.”

Ilana Romano, the widow of Yossef Romano, a weightlifter who was one of the first Israelis killed, told public broadcaster Kan last month that Germany’s current reparations offer was “degrading” and that the victims’ families rejected it.

Demands to release previously unpublished files on the attack were met in June when officials in Bavaria said they would release any files under wraps in the southern German state.

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