Germany agrees to $28M settlement with families of Munich victims of 1972 attack

People read information about the victims on a board as they visit the memorial site"'Erinnerungsort Olympia-Attentat" (Place of remembrance of the Olympic attack) at the Olympic Park in Munich, southern Germany on July 17, 2022. (ASTRID VELLGUTH/AFP

The German government confirmed Friday that families of 11 Israeli athletes killed by Palestinian militants at the 1972 Munich Olympics will receive a total of 28 million euros (dollars) in compensation.

The figure — which includes payments already made — had previously been reported by German and Israeli media but not officially communicated by the government.

It's a significant increase from the initial 10 million-euro offer to the families ahead of the 50th anniversary of the attack, which will be commemorated on Monday.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz "is very glad about the agreement achieved with the families of the victims," government spokesman Steffen Hebesteit told reporters in Berlin.

"Germany is emphasizing its responsibility for the mistakes that were made there in 1972, but also in the decades that followed," he added.

As part of an agreement with the families, Germany has agreed to acknowledge failures that authorities made at the time and to allow German and Israeli historians to review the events surrounding the attack.

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 Sept. 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.

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.

Asked whether Germany would welcome an apology for the attack from the current Palestinian leadership, Hebestreit said: "Yes, I would."

He said the issue was not discussed at a recent meeting in Berlin with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas who dismissed questions about a possible apology and accused Israel of committing "50 Holocausts" against Palestinians, sparking outrage in Germany and beyond.