1972Germany: 'It should have never been allowed to happen'

Rivlin inaugurates Munich memorial, raps Palestinians for lauding massacre

At memorial unveiling 45 years after 11 Israelis killed in terror attack at the Olympics, president says Israel ‘still waiting’ for minute of silence at the Games

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

Portraits of some of the Israeli athletes murdered at the 1972 Munich Olympics at the Olympic Village are displayed inside the Memorial Center on September 6, 2017 in Munich, Germany. (AFP PHOTO / Christof Stache)
Portraits of some of the Israeli athletes murdered at the 1972 Munich Olympics at the Olympic Village are displayed inside the Memorial Center on September 6, 2017 in Munich, Germany. (AFP PHOTO / Christof Stache)

President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday attended the inauguration in Munich of a memorial to the victims of the massacre there at the Olympic Games 45 years ago, and castigated the Palestinian Authority for its continued expressions of support for the terror act, which left 11 Israeli Olympians dead.

During the September 1972 attack on the Munich Olympic Village by the Black September Palestinian terror group, 11 Israelis were taken hostage. Two were murdered in the Olympic village and nine others were executed at the airport. A German policeman was killed in a shootout with the terrorists during a botched rescue attempt.

“There are still those who see in the murder of sportsmen a heroic deed,” Rivlin said, before singling out the party of PA President Mahmoud Abbas. “Just last year, Fatah marked the massacre of the sportsmen as an ‘act of heroism.’

“The center we are inaugurating today must be a message to the whole world: There can be no apologizing for terrorism. Terror must be unequivocally condemned everywhere. In Barcelona, in London, in Paris, in Berlin, in Jerusalem, and everywhere else.”

The president, attending the inauguration with his German counterpart, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Bavaria’s Prime Minister Horst Seehofer, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, and victims’ relatives, also said that having waited 45 years for the memorial, Israel is still waiting for another historical injustice to be rectified, and for a minute’s silence to be observed at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games to remember Israel’s dead.

“Our brothers who were murdered were not just the State of Israel’s sons,” Rivlin said. “They were the Olympic family’s sons. A family which for many years abandoned its commitment to them.

A visitor looks at the portraits of the Israeli athletes murdered at the 1972 Munich Olympics at the Olympic Village displayed inside the Memorial Center on September 6, 2017 in Munich, Germany. (AFP PHOTO / Christof STACHE)

“’The games must go on’ — so said at the time the President of the Olympic Committee, in a sentence which will be remembered eternally as a disgrace,” he noted.

“For 45 years – almost half a century – the victims’ families, and the State of Israel looked expectantly for this moment: the inauguration of a center of remembrance and a memorial in the Olympic Village.”

In his speech, Steinmeier acknowledged that Germany was unprepared for the attack, even though international terrorism was not a new phenomenon at the time.

“It should have never been allowed to happen,” he said. “Until today, we carry a heavy burden regarding this catastrophe. And this better recognition is part of the commemoration of this day — and I think it’s overdue, and we owe it you, dear family members.”

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier (R) greets President Reuven Rivlin on September 6, 2017 in Munich prior to the inauguration of a Memorial Center during a ceremony marking the 45th anniversary of a deadly attack on Israeli athletes at the1972 Olympic Games. (AFP PHOTO / dpa / Sven Hoppe)

Steinmeier then turned to the present, noting that there are still people who preach anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.

“In Germany, our way of life includes inseparably a commitment to our history, a commitment to the history of the Holocaust, the responsibility for Israel’s security that grows out of it, and the rejection of any form of anti-Semitism.”

The International Olympic Committee first commemorated the victims of the Munich massacre at the Rio Olympic Village in August 2016.

To date, IOC officials have maintained that a minute of silence would politicize the Games, compromising “collaboration between all parties of the Olympic family.”

The memorial is the result of a decades-long campaign by relatives of the massacre victims for a permanent memorial to the athletes.

It occupies a large exhibition area and is carved into a grass mound, creating the effect of an open wound. A triangular column in the center of the memorial displays the biographies and photos of those killed on panels with texts in German, Hebrew, and English. A large LED screen plays a 27-minute loop of news footage broadcast during the events of 1972.

The memorial cost 2.35 million euros ($2.8 million). Funding came primarily from the State of Bavaria, the German federal government, the City of Munich and the International Olympic Committee.

A “school of democracy” will eventually be located in the tower at the Fürstenfeldbruck airport, the site of the fatally botched rescue attempt.

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, August 3, 2016. (AP Photo/Edgard Garrido, Pool)

Ankie Spitzer, who was 26-years-old when she lost her husband, the coach and fencing master Andre Spitzer, in the attack, was also on hand.

She told the Deutschlandfunk radio station ahead of the ceremony that she could not deal with the fact that her loving husband had been brutally murdered and “no one regretted it. It took 45 years, but I don’t regret the long and lonely journey that brought us to this day. This is what I wanted.”

JTA contributed to this report

read more:
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed