The German government said it was ready to pay additional compensation to the families of 11 Israeli athletes who were killed at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich by members of a Palestinian group.
Relatives of the athletes have long been critical of the way the German authorities handled the attack and its aftermath. Demands for more compensation threaten to overshadow a planned memorial event to mark the 50th anniversary of the massacre.
The German interior ministry said on Wednesday that it is currently in talks with relatives and that the “serious consequences for the surviving dependents of the victims in non-financial and material terms” need to be reassessed.
“An offer is planned for further payments in gratitude to the surviving relatives of the victims of the attack,” the ministry told the German news agency dpa, adding that “the 50th anniversary memorial ceremony should be the occasion for a clear political classification of the 1972 event.”
It is unclear how much money will be offered to the families of the victims.
Members of the Palestinian Black September group broke into the Olympic Village and on September 5, 1972, took Israeli national team athletes hostage in order to secure the release of prisoners held by Israel and two left-wing extremists in West German prisons.
Eleven Israelis and a West German police officer died during the attack, including during a failed rescue attempt.
According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, immediately after the attack, Germany paid the relatives of the victims about 4.19 million marks (about 2 million euros). In 2002, the surviving relatives received another 3 million euros, according to dpa.
The claim for compensatory payments in the amount of about 40 million marks cited serious errors in the police operation, but was rejected due to the statute of limitations.
In Israel, Ilana Romano, widow of Yosef Romano, a weightlifter who was one of the first Israelis to be killed, told public TV channel Kan on Tuesday that Germany’s current offer of reparations is “degrading” and the surviving victims have rejected it.
“The offer is humiliating and we stand by our position that we are boycotting the (anniversary) ceremony,” she said, adding that Germany had “thrown us to the dogs.” They mistreated us for 50 years.”
“They decided to take responsibility – very nice after 50 years,” Romano said, calling for proper compensation for families, not pennies.
Demands to release previously unreleased files about the attack were granted last month when Bavarian officials said they would release any secret files in southern Germany.