Germany apologises for 1972 Munich Olympics attack failures

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By Louise Miner  with AFP
Israeli President Isaac Herzog, left, and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, right.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog, left, and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, right.   -   Copyright  Credit: AP

Germany's president Frank-Walter Steinmeier has apologised for multiple failures by his country before, during, and after the deadly attack at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

It came as the country marked half a century since Palestinian militants killed 11 Israeli athletes.

On Monday, Steinmeier attended a ceremony with his Israeli counterpart Isaac Herzog. at Fuerstenfeldbruck airfield outside Munich, the scene of a botched rescue attempt that left nine Israeli athletes, a West German police officer and five of the assailants dead.

"As head of state of this country and in the name of the Federal Republic of Germany," said Steinmeier. "I ask you for forgiveness for the lack of protection of the Israeli athletes at the time of the Olympic Games in Munich and for the lack of clarification afterwards, and for the fact that what happened happened."

Relatives of the slain athletes have fought for half a century for Germany to recognise its responsibilities. Last week, just before the anniversary, they agreed to compensation of €28 million.

Earlier, at another memorial, Munich mayor Dieter Reiter also apologised for huge mistakes made by politicians that day.

"On behalf of the City of Munich, I stand today, 50 years later, ashamed," said Reiter. "Those responsible for the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich made momentous mistakes. I am sorry for that, and I apologise for it. I apologise for the fact that after the attack, they did not do what humanity would have demanded: to admit mistakes and take responsibility for them."