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February 11, 2020 12:24 pm

50 Years After Deadly Arson Attack on Jewish Elderly Home in Munich, Local Activist Seeks Justice

avatar by Ben Cohen

An installation in downtown Munich commemorating the Feb. 13, 1970 arson attack on a Jewish community center in which seven elderly people were killed. Photo: @springermunich / Twitter

A cabaret artist in the German city of Munich has been waging a one-person campaign to commemorate the 50th anniversary of an arson attack on a Jewish community center in which seven elderly people lost their lives.

The long-forgotten attack, on Feb. 13 1970, occurred during a time of heightened terror against Israeli and Jewish targets.

Just the previous week, one person was killed and 23 injured when armed Palestinian terrorists opened fire on passengers lining up for a flight to Tel Aviv from Munich airport.

“According to a report from Amman, Jordan, carried on the West German radio yesterday, the Palestinian terrorist organization that claimed credit for the Munich Airport attack denied any connection with the fire in the Jewish community center,” a dispatch from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported at the time. “The prevailing opinion here is that the fire was set by Arab agents or by German extremists of the far left or far right.”

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Half a century later, the attack remains unsolved, though fresh evidence that emerged in 2012 indicated that it may have been the work of a viscerally anti-Zionist anarchist group.

On Tuesday, the Süddeutsche Zeitung carried an extensive interview with a local activist, Christian Springer, who insisted that it was not too late to seek justice for the victims, two of whom — David Jakubowicz and George Pfau — were Holocaust survivors.

Now working as a cabaret artist, Springer was a child at the time of the attack on the Jewish community building at Reichenbachstrasse 27 —  a four-story building that housed a synagogue, a community center and a retirement home for the elderly. Years later, when an assignment for his high school newspaper took him to the community center, he noticed a commemorative plaque on the wall dated “1970.” Thinking that the plaque was intended to commemorate the Israeli athletes murdered at the Munich Olympics in 1972, Springer said he initially wondered why the wrong year was shown. He then learned of the arson at the retirement home, beginning his quest for justice.

One year ago, Springer publicly appealed to the perpetrators of the attack to reveal themselves. No one came forward, Springer said, but he remained convinced that German police reports on the incident that were now in state archives contained “illuminating material.”

“We’ll follow up and follow up and follow up,” Springer pledged in the interview.

Meanwhile, visitors to Munich’s Gärtnerplatz Theater this week will see a commemorative installation created by Springer to mark the attack’s 50th anniversary.

Photographs of the fire and the names of the victims have been placed in a transparent container intended to remind spectators that, Springer explained, “remembering means telling people today about what happened.”

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