Families of Murdered Israeli Olympic Athletes Boycott German Commemoration
Two of the widows of the 11 Israeli athletes murdered by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Munich Olympics have sent a furiously worded letter to the prime minister of the state of Bavaria confirming that they will boycott a 50th anniversary commemoration ceremony being staged in the German city.
“Fifty years of abuse, lies, humiliation and rejection by the German government and especially Bavarian authorities are more than enough for us,” wrote Ankie Spitzer and Ilana Romano in a letter to Bavarian premier Markus Söder that was shared with German media outlets on Friday.
Spitzer’s husband, Andre, was an Israeli team coach, while Romano’s spouse, Yossef, competed as a weightlifter. Romano was the second team member killed by the terrorists after he attacked one of their number, grabbing his automatic rifle and slashing him with a knife before being shot by another member of the “Black September” cell behind the operation. A 2015 documentary on the massacre revealed that the terrorists tortured and castrated Romano before executing him, leaving his corpse unattended as a warning to the other Israeli athletes.
The letter from Spitzer and Romano followed several earlier statements from the families of the murdered athletes that they would boycott the commemoration ceremony, accusing the Bavarian government of not having paid adequate compensation for their loss and trauma.
In 2002, Germany paid $2.98 million in compensation to relatives of the victims, even though the families demanded $29 million and an apology for the mistakes allegedly made by the German authorities in a botched attempt to rescue the hostages. A new compensation offer of one million euros from both federal and local authorities was rejected as an “insult,” with Spitzer and Romano responding, “For real? After 50 years, we will not allow the German or Bavarian governments to portray us as petitioners.”
However, a separate report in the New York Times claimed that the German authorities had offered nearly $6 million in compensation, but that the families were demanding 20 times the amount.
The letter from the two women emphasized that they had made three demands of German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Firstly, a formal apology for the refusal of the German authorities to allow Israeli special forces to conduct the rescue operation — during the hostage situation, the German-led attempt to free the Israelis ended with all the Israeli athletes murdered on the tarmac of the Fürstenfeldbruck airbase. Secondly, they called for the full opening of state archives related to the massacre, and finally, “adequate compensation.”
According to Bild, Steinmeier has fulfilled the first two demands, but not the third.
Carry Knoops-Hamburger, a lawyer for the victim’s families, noted that relatives had been compensated with less than 100,000 euros per victim and 27,000 euros per family member. In other terrorist attacks, compensation was several million per victim, Knoops-Hamburger stressed.
“I would like to know where in the world you can bring such suffering to families for 50 years. I want to know in which enlightened place families are so abused,” Romano told Bild, accusing Germany of doing “exactly that, but in a polite manner and with a nice smile.”
Meanwhile, Spitzer said that the families would attend a Sept. 5 memorial event at the UK parliament in London instead. “They invited us too, we are free now and are not thinking of going to Germany and attending the ceremonies,” she said.
A spokesperson for the German Interior Ministry told the dpa news agency that an “offer of further recognition payments to the surviving relatives of the victims of the attack” had been advanced, adding that “the memorial ceremony of the 50th anniversary should be the occasion for a clear political classification of the events of 1972.”