Commission of historians to reappraise the attack at the Olympic Games in 1972 begins work
30 May 2023
Commission’s first meeting takes place today with Federal Minister of the Interior Nancy Faeser in attendance
The commission to examine and reappraise the attack on the Israeli team during the Olympic Games in Munich in 1972 is commencing its research work today. Its first meeting is being held at the Federal Ministry of the Interior and Community, with Federal Minister of the Interior Nancy Faeser in attendance. Over the next three years, the commission will carry out a thorough scholarly study and analysis of the attack, the surrounding events and the background and aftermath of the attack.
Federal Minister of the Interior Nancy Faeser said:
“The fact that the commission to examine and reappraise the 1972 attack on the Israeli Olympic team in Munich is beginning its work today sends an important signal. The attack has left deep wounds. It is shameful that agonising questions were left unresolved for far too long. For much too long, there was a lack of understanding or reappraisal of the events, transparency about them or acceptance of responsibility for them.
“Now, 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. The commission will also rigorously examine the period before and after the attacks. It is particularly important to me for their work to also thoroughly address the treatment of the victims’ family members as well as issues related to the culture of remembrance. Because we want to learn from this history, and we must learn from it.
“I wish the members of the commission great success with their research, and I once again pledge my full support for their work. I would also like to thank the Leibniz Institute for Contemporary History, which will be carrying out the research project together with the commission.”
The commission, which was appointed by Federal Minister of the Interior Nancy Faeser in April 2023, is comprised of eight internationally renowned scholars, all of whom are longstanding experts in the relevant fields of research. In establishing the commission, the Federal Government is fulfilling the final part of the comprehensive approach agreed with the victims’ families for the 50th anniversary of the attack.
The Federal Ministry of the Interior and Community has entrusted the Leibniz Institute for Contemporary History (IfZ) with carrying out and coordinating the research project in cooperation with the commission of historians. The IfZ is setting up a special office to organise and provide support for this project.
The public will be kept informed about the project’s progress and findings through regular publications and events. The first project-related event is planned for autumn 2023, around the time of the 51st anniversary of the attack.
On 5 September 1972, members of a Palestinian terrorist group stormed the Israeli team’s quarters in the Olympic village in Munich. They shot and killed two members of the Israeli Olympic team and took nine others hostage. In a botched attempt to free the hostages later that night at Fürstenfeldbruck airfield, all of the hostages, a Bavarian police officer and five of the eight terrorists were killed. Despite numerous academic publications on these events, to this day many questions about them remain unresolved. During the 50th anniversary year of the attack, Germany’s Federal Government agreed to appoint a commission for the historical reappraisal of the attack.
Members of the commission to examine and reappraise the attack on the Israeli Olympic team
Prof. Dr Ofer Ashkenazi
Ofer Ashkenazi is Associate Professor of History and Director of the Richard Koebner Minerva Center for German History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Professor Ashkenazi specialises in German postwar history and GermanJewish history with a focus on culture and the media. He is also interested in the scholarly investigation of German, Israeli and Palestinian history.
Prof. Dr Michael Brenner
Michael Brenner is the Seymour and Lillian Abensohn Chair in Israel Studies and Director of the Center for Israel Studies at the American University in Washington, D.C. He is also Professor of Jewish History and Culture at the Ludwig-Maximilians University of Munich.
Professor Brenner specialises in the history of Israel as well as Jewish history and culture with a focus on Germany and Israel. He is the International President of the Leo Baeck Institute for the Study of German-Jewish History and an elected fellow of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences.
Prof. Dr Shlomo Shpiro
Shlomo Spiro is the Director of the Europa Institute and holder of the Paterson Chair in Security and Intelligence at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel.
Professor Spiro specialises in the history of intelligence services in Israel and Europe; in Palestinian and Islamist terrorism; and in counter-terrorism. He has conducted extensive research on Palestinian terrorism in the 1970s, with a particular focus on the 1972 attack on the Israeli Olympic team, and on crisis communication in the response to terrorism.
Prof. i. R. Dr Margit Szöllösi-Janze
Margit Szöllösi-Janze is Professor of Contemporary History (retired) at the Ludwig-Maximilians University of Munich.
Professor Szöllösi-Janze is an expert in the history of National Socialism and the Federal Republic of Germany. She has conducted extensive research on the history of violence in Germany, including a current project funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) on political violence in the Federal Republic, with a focus on two lesser-known militant groups. She also oversaw the creation of the digital memorial site for the 1972 Olympic massacre, www.erinnerungsort-fürstenfeldbruck1972.de. In addition, she is a member of the Scientific Commission of the German Science and Humanities Council, among others.
Prof. Dr Petra Terhoeven
Petra Terhoeven is Professor of European Culture and Contemporary History at the Georg-August University of Göttingen.
Professor Terhoeven studies the history of fascism and political violence in the 20th century from a comparative perspective, in particular the history of left-wing terrorism in the 1970s. One focus of her research is the treatment of victims of political violence; as part of her work in this area, she is directing a research project on society and victims of terrorism in the modern period.
Prof. Dr em. Shulamit Volkov
Shulamit Volkov is Professor Emerita of Modern European History at Tel Aviv University.
Professor Volkov’s research focuses on modern German history and German-Jewish history. She also specialises in the history of antisemitism and has conducted extensive research on antisemitism in Germany. Professor Volkov is a member of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities.
Prof. Dr Klaus Weinhauer
Klaus Weinhauer is Professor of History at Bielefeld University and Director of the Bielefeld Graduate School in History and Sociology (BGHS).
Professor Weinhauer is an expert in the history of domestic security, the police and terrorism. He has conducted research on the history of the police from the 1960s to the present, including in particular the history of the Federal Criminal Police Office, terrorism in the Federal Republic of Germany, and the changing nature of the state.
Prof. Dr Christopher Young
Christopher Young is Professor of Modern and Medieval German Studies at Pembroke College, University of Cambridge.
Professor Young’s teaching and research interests are medieval German language, literature and culture as well as the history of sport in modern Europe and Germany. As co-author of the book “The 1972 Olympics and the Making of Modern Germany”, he has intensively studied the 1972 Summer Games, including the terrorist attack.