Families of Israelis Killed at Munich Olympics Reach Compensation Deal

The Israeli and German governments announced an agreement after the families said they would boycott a memorial observing the 1972 attack over what called insufficient recompense.

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By Christopher F. Schuetze and Ronen Bergman

DÜSSELDORF, Germany — The German government has reached an agreement with the families of 11 Israeli athletes killed by Palestinian militants at the Munich Olympics in 1972, the Israeli and German governments announced on Wednesday.

The families had said they would boycott a memorial service commemorating the 50th anniversary of the attack over insufficient financial compensation.

“We welcome the fact that soon before the 50th anniversary of the massacre of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics, an agreement has been reached for a historical inquiry, the taking of responsibility and suitable compensation for the victims’ families,” President Isaac Herzog of Israel and President Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany wrote in a joint statement.

A last-minute deal came together after months of negotiations, and the absence of the athletes’ families from the memorial would have been a bitter reminder of a major crisis in the modern relationship between Israel and Germany.

Israeli officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss diplomatic issues said that after the families’ announcement that they would not attend the ceremony, the Israeli president’s office informed Germany that Mr. Herzog would visit the country as planned but would not attend the ceremony in Munich. That situation that could have been embarrassing to Germany, and the possibility served as a catalyst for finding a solution.

The families also raised the possibility that they would attend a parallel ceremony to be held in London at the same date, the officials said.

The sum offered in this latest round of compensation is 28 million euros (about $28.1 million), according the Israeli officials. The bulk of the money comes from federal coffers, but the state of Bavaria and the city of Munich have chipped in, in recognition of their roles in the tragedy.

The German authorities have long been accused of botching the response to the attack in Munich on Sept. 5, 1972 — which left the athletes and a German police officer dead — and of withholding information and documents from the families for decades. The response, and its aftermath, is considered one of the biggest diplomatic rifts in the special relationship that the two countries have tried to build since starting a diplomatic relationship in 1965, 20 years after the end of the Holocaust.

The agreement was first announced on Wednesday morning by Gerhart Baum, a former federal interior minister who helped represent the victims’ families as a private lawyer, five days before the memorial service was scheduled to take place.

Mr. Baum told the DPA, the German news wire, that the agreement allowed for “a dignified commemoration on Sept. 5” in the presence of the country’s presidents and “the bereaved families who have agreed to participate in the ceremony under the new circumstances.”

The families initially hesitated to accept the sum agreed upon in the end, but under pressure and after requests of Mr. Herzog, they agreed, the Israeli officials said.

Over the years, the families have received a total of €4.8 million in compensation, according to a German government memo seen by The New York Times. Germany was offering €5.4 million in total in additional compensation to 23 remaining family members.

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