'Proof’ West Germany staged 1972 plane hijack to free Munich Olympics killers

The lawyers for the victims' families say they have found documents stating that the German government asked the Palestinian terror organisation to fake the hijack of a German plane


Lawyers acting for the families of the Munich Olympics massacre victims say they can prove the German government staged a hijack to free the killers.

Three suspects awaiting trial for the massacre of 11 Israeli Olympic athletes in September 1972 were freed less than two months later and flown to Libya after a Lufthansa jet was hijacked. West Germany, as it then was, also paid a $9 million ransom.

“We have found documents that state that the German government asked the Palestinian terror organisation to fake the hijack of a German plane in order to be able to set them free — and for doing so, a month after the heinous terrorist attack, the Palestinians were paid nine million dollars,” Dutch lawyer Carry Knoops-Hamburger, one of the team negotiating with the German government for compensation for the victims’ families, told the JC.

The Israeli families have rejected a $5 million offer of compensation by Germany and say they will also boycott a commemorative event planned in Germany on 5 September to mark the 50th anniversary of the atrocity.

The hijack revelation confirms rumours that have long swirled around the West German government’s puzzling actions following the bloodbath. No one was ever brought to trial for the attack, which ended in a botched rescue attempt at a military airport outside Munich, in which all the athletes and a German police officer were killed.

Three surviving perpetrators were released and sent to Tripoli, Libya, following the hijack of Lufthansa flight 615 on 29 October, 1972.

“A terrorist organisation was paid in order to organise a fake a hijacking and set the three terrorists free,” said Alexander Knoops, another member of the families’ legal team. “They were flown to Tripoli with Black September [the Palestine Liberation Organisation faction behind the attack] and hailed as heroes. We’re going to use that if needed in the court case. We hope the German government will take care of the damages before 5 September.”

Author and intelligence expert Yossi Melman said the exposure of such documents was not surprising. “There are more than rumours about this in official documents and in other testimony. There is a document produced by the German ambassador in Tripoli, a cable sent two weeks before the hijacking asking ‘So? What’s going on? How are things coming?’”

Ilana Romano, 75, widow of weightlifter Yossef Romano, who was killed in the attack, said that German counter-intelligence commander Ulrich Wegener confirmed Germany’s hand in manufacturing the hijacking of Lufthansa flight 615 in a meeting with her and Ankie Spitzer, widow of fencer André Spitzer.

“They sent us to hell,” said Mrs Romano. “Now they’re offering us $5 million? Shame on them. They’ve spent five decades tricking and lying to us.” Mr Knoops said the families “did receive some compensation in 1972 and again in 2002, but those were of small sums paid in order to avoid an admission of guilt on the part of the West German authorities.” By comparison with the German compensation offer, Libya paid about $11 million for each victim of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.

The German government has never recognised the Munich massacre as an international act of terror, classifying it instead as a local event.

At 4.30 am on 5 September 1972, eight heavily armed members of Black September invaded the unguarded Israeli quarters.

Weightlifter Romano, 32, who attempted to disarm the attackers, was the second to be murdered after wrestling coach Moshe Weinberg and was mutilated in front of his teammates, as a warning. The terrorists demanded the release of 234 Palestinians held in Israel and members of the Baader Meinhoff terror group, held in German jails. By the next day the entire team would be dead.

Negotiations between the Israelis and German authorities appear to be deadlocked.

“Apparently, they have something to hide,” Ms Knoops-Hamburger said of the Germans.

“Why do you give the terrorists $9 million in 1972 to fake a hijacking to get rid of three terrorists you should have tried?

“That is the open wound and after 50 years we conclude that justice should prevail.

“The families should be at the commemoration,” she said. “It would be a crying shame [if they are not].”

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