Panel of historians starts 3-year review of 1972 Munich Olympics attack

BERLIN (AP) — A panel of historians set up to review the 1972 attack on the Munich Olympics is starting its three-year mission to examine what happened before, during and after the events of five decades ago on Tuesday, the German government said.

In April, Germany’s Interior Ministry named the eight-member international commission of experts, most based in Israel or Germany. That was part of an agreement last year with relatives of the 11 Israeli team members who were killed by Palestinian militants.

The panel’s first meeting was being held at the Interior Ministry on Tuesday. Interior Minister Nancy Faeser pledged that “the events surrounding this terrible attack will finally be examined thoroughly and transparently.”

“The research findings should deliver answers to the many unresolved questions — answers which the German government has owed the victims’ family members and the public for more than 50 years,” Faeser said in a statement. Her ministry said there would be “regular publications and events.”

In September, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier apologized for multiple German failures before, during and after the attack as he joined his Israeli counterpart and relatives of the slain athletes at a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary.

Days earlier, an agreement for the relatives to receive a total of 28 million euros ($30 million) in compensation headed off a threatened boycott of the event. The sum included much smaller payments made earlier.

Germany also agreed to acknowledge failures by authorities at the time and to set up the expert review.

On Sept. 5, 1972, eight members of a Palestinian group called Black September clambered over the Olympic village’s unguarded fence. They burst into the building where the Israeli team was staying, killing wrestling coach Moshe Weinberg and weightlifter Yossi Romano.

Some Israeli athletes managed to escape but nine were seized. The captors demanded the release of more than 200 Palestinians held by Israel and two German left-wing extremists in West German prisons.

The attackers demanded a plane and safe passage to Cairo. After a day of negotiations, the assailants and their hostages were allowed to leave aboard two helicopters for the Fuerstenfeldbruck airfield, outside Munich.

Sharpshooters at the airfield opened fire. The attackers threw a grenade into one of the helicopters carrying hostages, which exploded, and shot the hostages in the other helicopter. The botched rescue attempt also left a West German police officer and five of the assailants dead.

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