Germany ups Munich massacre compensation offer after families brand it 'insulting'

The federal government increased their offer to the Israeli families by €20m


TOPSHOT - A Palestinian guerilla member appears on the balcony of the Israeli house watching an official on September 05, 1972 at the Munich Olympic village. A group of "Black September" Palestinian guerrillas broke into the Israeli building in the Olypmpic village near Munich where 10,000 athletes were staying 05 September. Eleven Israeli hostages were killed in the attack. (Photo by EPU / AFP) (Photo by -/EPU/AFP via Getty Images)

The Israeli families of the 1972 Munich Olympic massacre victims are set to receive massive compensation from Germany reported to be around 28 million euros.

The last-minute deal brokered by their Dutch lawyers came less than a week before next Monday’s 50th-anniversary memorial service near Munich which many of the families said they would boycott in protest against a previous 5.4m euro offer they described as “insulting”.

The breakthrough came after the German government, which as recently as May refused to budge on its offer, accepted that Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya had helped to fund and organise the 1972 outrage carried out by the Black September terrorist group.

This meant that international standards of compensation applied which are far higher that German levels.

“Our advice now to the families is that they should accept the new offer,” said their Amsterdam-based lawyer Professor Geert-Jan Alexander Knoops, an expert on international law. “It is a substantial improvement, and our advice would be to accept it and finalise and end this dramatic episode of 50 years ago.

“But it is up to them now. We have passed on the proposal to them and they all have to make a decision now, and, hopefully every one of them we sign. Then the German government has to sign the new agreement and the commemoration can take place next week.”

Prof Knoops was approached in 2018 by Ankie Spitzer, widow of one of the Munich victims, fencing coach Andre Spitzer.

“The problem was that her claim was not possible any more because of the statutes of limitations under German law,” he said.

“The issue of Libya was really crucial to the negotiations.

 “We found our way to the UN Sanctions Committee in New York, and we prepared expert reports on the state responsibility of Libya. We suggested to the German and Israeli government that they file an application to the UN sanctions committee, to unfreeze the part of the Libyan assets which applies to Germany, which was $7 billion dollars just for Germany, and worldwide $70 billion, which has been unfrozen since 2011.

“The government of Israel at the UN was willing to follow up this suggestion, but not the German government.”

In May, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said the issue was “legally too complicated”, he went on.

 “But our experts were able to demonstrate that Libya had actively facilitated and financed the Munich Olympic attack, so under international law, Libya is then responsible for the attack, and thus liable to pay civil compensation.”

“Instead of just giving up, in July we filed two expert opinions. I also work as a defence counsel at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, and we were able to arrange a very important expert legal opinion, to be demonstrated to the German government, clearly stating that Libya was liable for the Munich massacre.

“The relevance of classifying this as an act of international terrorism, and not national terrorism, changed everything.”

“We don’t know exactly what went on behind the scenes, but this expert opinion was a very important factor to say to the German government that they should increase their offer.”

Not all of the relatives were refusing to attend the memorial event. Eyal Shapira, son of murdered athletics coach Amitzur Shapira, said that while the issue of money needed clarification, it would not prevent him from going.

"I will go there, even if the issue of money has not been clarified by then,” he said.

“I will come to say things. Yes, there is cause for compensation. I'm not an idiot who doesn't care about money. But that's no reason for me not to come."

The memorial event is being organised by the district of Fürstenfeldbruck, the Free State of Bavaria and the Federal Republic.

It will take place at Fürstenfeldbruck near Munich, the air base where the hostage-taking ended in a mass shootout.

Germany’s Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and his Israeli counterpart President Isaac Herzog are scheduled to attend.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive