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Munich Victims' Families Paid

September 16, 2002|Alan Abrahamson

Just days after the 30th anniversary of the kidnappings and murders of 11 Israeli athletes and coaches at the Munich Olympic Games, German authorities have paid the Israeli families of those slain about $3 million, bringing to a close a long-running lawsuit with what was termed a "humanitarian gesture."

The payment was delivered to Israeli government officials in Berlin, then forwarded this week to Israel, said Pinchas Zeltzer, the Israeli attorney whose office--one of Israel's leading law firms--has long represented the 11 families.

The lawsuit had alleged massive negligence by German local, state and federal authorities in the events of Sept. 5, 1972. Arab terrorists invaded the Olympic village before dawn. Within hours, they had killed two Israelis and taken nine others hostage.

Those nine were later killed in a firefight at a military airport near Munich.

The lawsuit was filed in the German courts only after the 1992 disclosure of thousands of files and hundreds of photos documenting the attack at the village, the daylong siege and a botched rescue attempt that led to the firefight.

German officials have refused to accept liability in the deaths of the Israelis. In announcing the payment Sept. 6 at Furstenfeldbruck, site of the botched rescue attempt, Germany's interior minister, Otto Schily, said "It is not an admission of guilt. It is a humanitarian gesture."

Zeltzer said, "This is nonsense. If you don't have to pay, you don't pay millions. This was a struggle for 30 years.... Payment is a recognition of guilt. You can't say it was just because they like us."

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