Israeli President Reuven Rivlin began his visit to Germany on Wednesday by attending a memorial ceremony for the Israeli athletes murdered at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
Rivlin was joined at the memorial ceremony by his German counterpart President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Bavaria’s Prime Minister Horst Seehofer, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach and the victims’ relatives.
Rivlin said, “in September 1972 members of the Israeli Olympic team walked around the paths of the Olympic Village. Young men, full of hopes and dreams. Athletes who wanted to break records, sportsmen who wanted to be world champions, to bring home an Olympic medal… the massacre destroyed it all.”
“There are still those who see in the murder of sportsmen a heroic deed,” Rivlin said, before singling out Fatah, the party of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, which just last year “marked the massacre of the sportsmen as an ‘act of heroism.’”
Rivlin stressed the importance of the memorial as part of the unwavering struggle against terror across the world, in which “there can be no apologizing for terrorism” and that “terror must be unequivocally condemned, everywhere”.
German President Steinmeier told the audience it had taken too long for the memorial to be built. “It is high time and we owe it firstly to you, the relatives,” Steinmeier said, adding that the attack “should never have happened”.
He added that “our history and the legacy of the Holocaust strengthen our responsibility towards the State of Israel and our burden in completely rejecting all forms of antisemitism.”
Bavarian Minister of Education, Science and the Arts Ludwig Spaenle opened the inauguration ceremony and told the audience, “members of the families, the memorial site has been designed to describe the fracture in your lives, and in the existence of the whole world, that was caused by an act of terror. Your loved ones will be engraved in our memories forever.”
The memorial is the result of a decades-long campaign by relatives of the athletes for a permanent memorial. For the first time at last year’s Rio Olympics the IOC commemorated the victims of the Munich attack, despite previously saying that a minute of silence would politicize the Olympics.