Germany asks for forgiveness

  • Home Page
  • Chancellor 

  • Federal Government

  • News

  • Service

  • Media Center

1972 Olympic massacre Germany asks for forgiveness

The 50th anniversary of the massacre at the Olympic Games in Munich was commemorated in Fürstenfeldbruck this Monday. Nancy Faeser, Federal Minister of the Interior and Community, and Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier apologised on behalf of Germany for the failure of the authorities, and Faeser also promised to continue to process and clarify the situation.

3 min reading time

Nancy Faeser, Federal Minister of the Interior and Community, and Bavarian state premier, Markus Söder, in front of memorial wreaths.

Federal Minister of the Interior and Community, Nancy Faeser, and the Bavarian state premier at the Silent Commemoration.

Photo: Federal Government/Bergmann

At the commemoration ceremony for the 50th anniversary of the massacre of the Israeli Olympic team in Fürstenfeldbruck this Monday, Federal Minister of the Interior and Community, Nancy Faeser, apologised for Germany's many failings: "This was a massacre that has left deep wounds,” she said: “Nagging questions have gone unanswered for far too long. Detailed information, reappraisal, transparency, and acceptance of responsibility have been lacking. We, the current Federal Government, are very aware of this and have therefore taken action". It was indeed shameful that no reappraisal had taken place long ago, she continued, which is why she attached priority to setting up an independent commission comprising German and Israeli historians to do just that. However, the Federal Minister of the Interior and Community also looked to the future: "It is possible for us to make a new start where you extend the hand of friendship to us, and we grasp it."

Palestinian terrorists launched an attack on the Israeli team at the Olympic Games in Munich on 5 September 1972 in course of which eleven members of the team and one policeman were killed.

A plea for forgiveness

Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier also spoke in clear terms: "We cannot make amends for what took place, nor for the defensiveness, ignorance, and injustice you experienced and suffered,” he said: I am ashamed of that. As head of state of this country and on behalf of the Federal Republic of Germany, I ask you for forgiveness for the lack of protection afforded to the Israeli athletes during the Olympic Games in Munich and for the lack of clarification afterwards; for the fact that what happened was allowed to happen."

Sense of relief at the agreement reached

Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz is pleased and relieved that it proved possible to reach an agreement with the bereaved families, which paved the way for them to take part in this memorial service. Israeli President Herzog sees the agreement as "an important, just, and moral step” and called upon those present to "carry the memory of the horrific attack in our hearts forever on behalf of the victims". Herzog expressly thanked President Steinmeier for his great efforts and his sincere apology at this commemorative event, which "touched our hearts".

Comprehensive reappraisal

Now, 50 years after the massacre, the Federal Government is creating the conditions for coming to terms with a very painful chapter in Germany and Israel’s shared history and paying appropriate tribute to it. Together with the families of the bereaved, it has developed a three-pillar concept to achieve this.

The Federal Government is setting up an independent commission of German and Israeli historians, whose goal will be to create transparency and ensure that everything that has remained obscure to date will now be properly scrutinised. Specifically, after reviewing and processing all available sources, this commission will produce a new expert assessment of the events and define any further research that may be required.

In collaboration with the Bavarian government and the City of Munich authorities, the Federal Government will be providing adequate compensation to the survivors of the attack in recognition of the decades of suffering they have endured. In so doing, the Federal Republic of Germany is accepting its responsibility towards the victims and their surviving relatives.