Home Foreign Israeli president hails Munich massacre memorial after 45-year wait

Israeli president hails Munich massacre memorial after 45-year wait


Munich –   Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday welcomed the unveiling of a memorial to the victims of the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre, a move which the families of the slain Israeli athletes spent decades campaigning for.

“For 45 years, almost half a century, the families of the victims and the state of Israel were expecting this moment.

“The inauguration of a memorial centre and a monument in the Olympic village,” Rivlin said in Munich’s Olympic Park.

Rivlin and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier observed a minute’s silence at the ceremony, standing alongside the relatives of those killed.

The Black September Organisation, a Palestinian terrorist group, took members of Israel’s Olympic team hostage at the 1972 Games in an effort to force the release of prisoners held by Israel.

The hostage situation, including a rescue operation at a nearby airport, led to the deaths of 11 athletes and one police officer.

Five terrorists were also killed.

“For much too long, this place did not exist; for too long, the victims faded away in the public mind behind the culprits,” Steinmeier said in his speech.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach and Horst Seehofer, premier of Germany’s southern state of Bavaria, of which Munich is the capital, also attended the inauguration.

Architects have made an incision in the side of a grassy mound in the Bavarian capital’s Olympic Park, creating an overhanging ceiling.

The space underneath will house information boards and tributes to the victims.

The memorial, which cost 2.3 million euros and was financed in part by German authorities and the IOC, is now open to the public.

The pain of the families was still evident on Wednesday, decades after the bloodshed, with Ankie Spitzer, widow of fencing Coach Andre Spitzer, issuing strong criticism to the authorities at the time in a speech to guests.

She accused German officials of arrogance and of trying to cover up any incompetency.

“They even told us that we had brought terror to German soil,” she said.

Israeli athlete Esther Roth Shahamorov, a 1972 Olympic competitor whose coach was killed in the attack, accompanied the Israeli president and his wife, Nechama Rivlin, as part of the government delegation.

Rivlin is set to visit the former Nazi concentration camp of Dachau, accompanied by Steinmeier, later in the day.

On Thursday, he is scheduled to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin. (dpa/NAN)

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