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Report: West German police knew Black September member lived in Berlin after release

Revelation supports theory that West Germany facilitated release of hostage-takers, and didn’t re-arrest them, in order to avoid retaliation from Palestinian terror groups

This file combination (combo) of photos taken on September 6, 1972 shows three terrorists captured by German police at the Fürstenfeldbruck Air Base, after the failed action of German police forces to free members of Israel's Olympic team who were taken hostage by militants of the Black September group during the Olympic Games in Munich: (L-R) Ibrahim Mosoud Badran, Samer Mohamed Abdulah and Abed Kair al Dnawly. (EPU / AFP)
This file combination (combo) of photos taken on September 6, 1972 shows three terrorists captured by German police at the Fürstenfeldbruck Air Base, after the failed action of German police forces to free members of Israel's Olympic team who were taken hostage by militants of the Black September group during the Olympic Games in Munich: (L-R) Ibrahim Mosoud Badran, Samer Mohamed Abdulah and Abed Kair al Dnawly. (EPU / AFP)

BERLIN — German police knew that one of the Palestinians who took Israeli athletes hostage during the 1972 Munich Olympics lived in Berlin for several years following the attack, the Suddeutsche Zeitung daily wrote on Saturday.

On September 5, 1972, eight gunmen of the Palestinian terror group Black September stormed into the Israeli team’s flat at the Olympic village, shooting dead two and taking nine Israelis hostage.

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 three remaining hostage-takers were captured, but released weeks later in an exchange when gunmen hijacked a Lufthansa plane on October 29, 1972, and demanded their release.

Incensed by the chain of events, Israel subsequently launched the operation “Wrath of God” to hunt down the leaders of Black September.

On Saturday the German daily said that one of the three Palestinians who was released then lived for years in Berlin, citing a report in Munich police archives. The report did not specify which of the three surviving Black September members — Ibrahim Mosoud Badran, Samer Mohamed Abdulah and Abed Kair al Dnawly — was the individual who lived in Berlin.

Portraits of the victims are displayed at the end of a ceremony to mark the 50th anniversary of the massacre of Israeli athletes by Palestinian Black September terrorists at the 1972 Munich Olympics, at the Fuerstenfeldbruck Air Base, southern Germany, on September 5, 2022. (Thomas KIENZLE / AFP)

Suddeutsche Zeitung said Munich police — which were in charge of investigating the attack — were told by the BKA federal police that the Palestinian in question was living in West Berlin and that he went to East Berlin almost daily, to work at the office of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO).

When contacted by AFP, Bavaria’s interior ministry had no immediate comment.

Following the release of the three hostage-takers, a theory made the rounds that then West Germany had facilitated the release in order to avoid any more operations by Palestinian terrorists on its territory.

“We can pose the question if the police really wanted to act or if they wanted to give up arresting someone to avoid a new attack by Palestinian militants” in West Germany, German historian Dominik Aufleger, who had access to the same documents as the paper for his research on the attack, told the daily.

Marking the 50th anniversary of the attack this September, Germany sought “forgiveness” from families of the Israeli victims.

File Photo from September 5, 1972, shows a member of the Arab commando group which seized members of the Israeli Olympic Team at their quarters at the Munich Olympic Village appearing with a hood over his face on the balcony of the village building where the commandos held several members of the Israeli team hostage. (AP/Kurt Strumpf, File)

“We cannot make up for what has happened, not even for what you have experienced and suffered in terms of defensiveness, ignorance and injustice. I am ashamed of that,” said German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier at a ceremony with a visiting President Isaac Herzog last week.

Steinmeier’s apology came after a bitter fight by bereaved relatives for Berlin to own up to mistakes that enabled the massacre and for appropriate compensation.

A dispute over the financial offer previously made by Berlin to victims’ relatives had threatened to sour the ceremony, with family members planning a boycott.

But a deal was finally reached last month for Berlin to provide 28 million euros ($28 million) in compensation. It also — for the first time — saw the German state acknowledge its “responsibility” in failings that led to the deaths of the Israelis.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report

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