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German guard detained for Hitler salute to Israeli athletes visiting Munich memorial

Security guard banned from all European Championships events; 16 Israeli competitors participating in games said to have not noticed forbidden Nazi gesture

A flower wreath with the Israeli flag is seen at Erinnerungsort Olympia-Attentatat, the memorial site for the 11 Israeli athletes and German police officer killed by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Munich Olympics, Olympic Park in Munich, southern Germany, August 17, 2022. (INA FASSBENDER/AFP)
A flower wreath with the Israeli flag is seen at Erinnerungsort Olympia-Attentatat, the memorial site for the 11 Israeli athletes and German police officer killed by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Munich Olympics, Olympic Park in Munich, southern Germany, August 17, 2022. (INA FASSBENDER/AFP)

A German security guard has been arrested for making a Hitler salute in front of a group of Israeli athletes visiting a memorial to the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre, police said on Wednesday.

The 16 athletes from the Israeli European Championships team were visiting the Olympic Park in Munich on Tuesday evening when the banned gesture was made, police said in a statement.

“One of the four security guards present was observed at around 7:20 pm making a National Socialist gesture [forbidden ‘Hitler salute’],” the statement said.

Police immediately arrested the suspect, a 19-year-old from Berlin, and he has been banned from all further European Championships events.

The athletes themselves had not noticed the gesture, police said.

The arrest comes at a sensitive time, with Munich hosting the European Championships ahead of the 50th anniversary of the Olympics massacre, in which 11 Israelis were murdered.

FILE – In this Sept. 5, 1972 b/w file photo, a member of the Arab Commando group which seized members of the Israeli Olympic Team at their quarters at the Munich Olympic Village appears with a hood over his face on the balcony of the village building where the commandos held members of the Israeli team hostage. The presidents of Germany and Israel will jointly commemorate the 45th anniversary of the death of 11 Israeli athletes killed by a Palestinian militant group during the 1972 Munich Olympics. (AP Photo/Kurt Strumpf,file)

On September 5, 1972, eight gunmen broke into the Israeli team’s apartment at the Olympic village, shooting dead two and taking nine Israelis hostage, threatening to kill them unless 232 Palestinian prisoners were released.

West German police responded with a bungled rescue operation in which all nine hostages were killed, along with five of the eight hostage-takers and a police officer.

The families of those killed have received 4.5 million euros in compensation, but have said it is not enough, and are vowing to boycott upcoming commemorations of the tragedy.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas also further inflamed the situation during a visit to Berlin on Tuesday when he failed to condemn the massacre, and instead compared crimes committed against the Palestinians to the Holocaust.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas gesticulates during a joint press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, on August 16, 2022. (Jens Schlueter/AFP)

At a joint press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Abbas was asked if he would apologize on behalf of the Palestinian gunmen who carried out the Munich massacre.

Abbas did not give a direct reply, but instead compared it to the situation in the Palestinian territories, and accused Israel of committing “50 massacres, 50 holocausts” against Palestinians since 1947.

The Palestinian Presidency on Wednesday walked back the accusation after the comments attracted a wave of international furor, and claimed Abbas had merely been intending to highlight Israeli “crimes.”

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