Munich Massacre memorial after 45


Forty-five years after the Sept. 6 PLO attack on Israeli Olympic team members at the 1972 games, a memorial dedicated to the victims has opened in Munich.

The memorial — largely realized through the persistent efforts of family members — features the biographies of the 11 Israeli athletes and coaches and a German police officer killed in the attack, on panels with texts in German, Hebrew and English.

“We wanted to give the victims their identity back in the eyes of the public,” Bavarian Minister of Culture Ludwig Spaenle told the media on Monday during a preview of the site, which is cut into a hillside in the former Olympic park.

In his remarks at the opening ceremony, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin addressed those victims.

“[W]e march together with your children, your grandchildren, your relatives and your fellow Olympic delegation, all those who haven’t forgotten you for a moment,” Rivlin said, adding that he hoped a moment of silence would be introduced at future Olympic Games in their memory.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the monument was too long in coming.

“We owe it firstly to you, the relatives,” he said. “The Olympic village became a place of Palestinian terrorists, a stage for their boundless hatred for Israel.”

Now, he said, the site is a place of remembrance and healing.

“Only when Jews in Germany feel safe here, feel at home, only then has Germany become whole,” Steinmeier said.

“Becoming German means to be aware of this history, to understand this history and to accept this history. It holds true for people coming from other cultures too,” he added, alluding to more than 1.5 million recent refugees, many of them Muslims, currently living in Germany.

Bavarian Premier Horst Seehofer and International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach were among those attending the ceremony.

Some 200,000 Jews are now living in Germany, mostly from the former Soviet Union in the years following German unification.

The memorial cost 2.35 million euros, or about $2.8 million. The funding came primarily from the State of Bavaria, the German federal government, the City of Munich and the International Olympic Committee. Until now, the main memorials have been a sculpture and plaque.

Charlotte Knobloch, head of the Jewish Community of Upper Bavaria and Munich, and former president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said in a statement, “The [1972] attack was not just against Israel, not just against Jews. It was an attack on all of us, on the Olympic idea, the vision of freedom and peace for all humans.”

She applauded an additional as yet incomplete element of the memorial — a “school of democracy” to be located in the tower at the Fürstenfeldbruck airport, site of the botched rescue attempt.

Ahead of the dedication ceremony, German news media featured interviews with family members, including Am Ankie Spitzer, who was 26 years old when she lost her husband, the coach and fencing master Andre Spitzer, in the attack. She told Deutschlandfunk radio that she could not deal with the fact that her loving husband had been brutally murdered and “no one regretted it.”

“It took 45 years, but I don’t regret the long and lonely journey that brought us to this day,” she said. “This is what I wanted.”