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Germany to pay further compensation to families of 1972 Munich Olympics attack victims

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By Euronews  with AP
A member of the Arab Commando group which seized members of the Israeli Olympic Team stands on the balcony where they held them hostage in Munich, 5 September 1972.
A member of the Arab Commando group which seized members of the Israeli Olympic Team stands on the balcony where they held them hostage in Munich, 5 September 1972.   -   Copyright  Kurt Strumpf/AP

The German government has indicated that it is willing to pay further 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 criticised how German authorities handled the attack and its aftermath. Demands for further compensation have threatened to overshadow a planned memorial event for the 50th anniversary of the massacre.

Germany's Interior Ministry said on Wednesday that it is currently holding talks with the relatives and that the “serious consequences for the surviving dependents of the victims in immaterial and material terms” should be reassessed.

“An offer of further recognition payments to the surviving relatives of the victims of the attack” is planned, the ministry told the German news agency dpa, adding that “the memorial ceremony of the 50th anniversary should be the occasion for a clear political classification of the events of 1972”.

It is not clear how much money would be offered to the families of the victims.

Members of the Palestinian group Black September broke into the Olympics Village and took athletes from Israel's national team hostage on 5 September 1972, with the goal of forcing the release of prisoners held by Israel and two left-wing extremists in West German jails.

Eleven Israelis and a West German police officer died during the attack, including during a botched rescue attempt.

Two West German policemen wearing athlete sweatshirts and armed with submachine guns get into position on the roof of the Munich Olympic Village building, Sept. 5, 1972.AP

Immediately after the attack, Germany made payments to the relatives of the victims amounting to about 4.19 million marks (roughly €2m), according to the Interior Ministry. In 2002, the surviving relatives received another €3m, dpa reported.

A claim for compensation payments amounting to around 40 million marks cited massive errors in the police operation, but it was dismissed because of the statute of limitations.

In Israel, Ilana Romano, the widow of Yossef Romano, a weightlifter who was one of the first Israelis killed, told public broadcaster Kan on Tuesday that Germany's current reparations offer was “degrading” and the victims' survivors rejected it.

“The offer is degrading, and we are standing by our stance that we are boycotting the (anniversary) ceremony,” she said, adding that Germany “threw 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 the families and “not pennies.”

Demands to release previously unpublished files on the attack were met last month when officials in Bavaria said they would release any files under wraps in the southern German state.