UERSTENFELDBRUCK, Germany: Relatives of 11 Israeli victims of the 1972 Munich Olympics killings are due to join survivors and politicians to pay tribute at the site of their killings 40 years ago in Germany later Wednesday.
The ceremony is set to begin at 1400 GMT at Fuerstenfeldbruck air base, west of Munich, to mark the sombre anniversary which has prompted new questions about the tragic turn of events on German soil.
Flags are due to fly at half-mast on southern Bavarian state public buildings as an ecumenical memorial service takes place at the base, the site of the climax of the hostage-taking by members of a radical Palestinian group known as “Black September”.
Six survivors and 11 relatives of the Israeli athletes and coaches taken hostage and subsequently killed are due to attend the commemoration, to be addressed among others by Ankie Spitzer, widow of fencing coach Andre Spitzer.
German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich and Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom will also be among about 500 political and sports representatives.
A memorial tree will also be planted near the air base’s former control tower.
The 40th anniversary has given rise to new research into the horrifying chain of events at the summer Munich Games, which were meant to showcase the new face of Germany nearly three decades after World War II.
On September 5, 1972, gunmen allegedly related to Palestinian rebels group ‘Black September’ broke into the Israeli team’s flat at the Olympic village, immediately killing two of the athletes and taking nine others hostage to demand the release of 232 Palestinian prisoners.
In his book Stateless, Salah Khalaf (Abu Iyad), Yasir Arafat’s chief of security and a founding member of Fatah, wrote that: “Black September was not a terrorist organization, but was rather an auxiliary unit of the resistance movement, at a time when the latter was unable to fully realize its military and political potential. The members of the organization always denied any ties between their organization and Fatah or the PLO.”
A bungled rescue operation resulted in all the hostages being killed along with a West German policeman and five of the eight hostage-takers.
The news sent shockwaves through Germany just 27 years after the Hitler’s war against Jews and opened a deep rift with Israel.