1972 Olympics Massacre Germany's Secret Contacts to Palestinian Terrorists
Part 2: Germany Did Not Push for Terrorist's Extradition
PLO leader Yasser Arafat relented, and on January 1973, he made it clear that he had "officially decided" to comply with Germany's wishes. In return, he asked to be allowed to send an envoy to Bonn. Arafat wanted to secure his influence among the several thousand Palestinians living in West Germany at the time, whose donations were one of his most important sources of funding. His wish was granted, and in 1975 Abdallah Frangi, an Arafat confidant who was the jovial son of a Bedouin, became the head of the so-called Palestine Information Office on Kaiserstrasse in Bonn.
The Black September terrorists had tried to reach Frangi several times by telephone on the day of the Olympic massacre. Frangi narrowly escaped death in a Mossad revenge attack in October 1972.
In Bonn, Frangi openly championed the PLO's interests. Photos of receptions in the West German capital show the Arab lobbyist with Brandt, Scheel and former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt.
Frangi's chutzpah was especially apparent ahead of the 1974 soccer World Cup, which was hosted by West Germany. According to the files, Frangi offered the Foreign Ministry a sort of anti-terror hotline. The PLO representative, who was married to a German woman from the western state of Hesse, explained that the Germans had nothing to fear in the way of attacks during the World Cup, because there were "no plans of this nature." Nevertheless, he added, he would make himself "available" just in case, and could be reached at the home of his wife's parents. In his memoirs, Frangi writes that the Munich murders were "no longer an issue" during talks in Bonn at the time.
This didn't change when the French police arrested one of the main culprits in 1977. Abu Daoud, a teacher from Jerusalem, had coordinated the Black September operation in Munich and left the country on the morning of the attack. When the German Justice Ministry received an inquiry from Paris as to whether there was any interest in an extradition, it referred the request to the relevant authorities in Bavaria.
In Munich, Alfred Seidl, a senior official in the state's Justice Ministry, recommended that Bonn support an extradition request by Israel instead of becoming directly involved. In this way, he argued, the German government "could possibly avoid having to issue its own extradition request or having Abu Daoud extradited to Germany."
The matter became too awkward for the French after a few days, and they allowed Abu Daoud to fly to Algeria. They too were worried about attacks being carried out on their territory.
The government of then Chancellor Schmidt and Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher also viewed the Olympic massacre with cold pragmatism. A Palestinian government in exile would emerge from the PLO "sooner or later," a Foreign Ministry official noted, and charges of terrorism were not helpful in that respect. The German ambassador in Beirut wrote that because the attack had occurred a long time previously, the "bad blood on both sides has been cleared up," and that Bonn ought to try to objectify its relationship with the Palestinians.
In the fall of 1977, a member of Schmidt's staff at the Chancellery even met with Ali Salameh, probably the key mastermind of the Munich attack. As a representative of the Palestinians, Salameh, nicknamed the "Red Prince," demanded recognition of the PLO. In return, he offered that the PLO would not only distance itself from terrorism, but also become "actively involved in fighting terrorism." To its credit, Bonn turned down the deal.
Whether or not Germany's appeasement policy was a success is debatable. Despite Arafat's guarantee of security, it was mostly luck and focused police work that prevented further PLO attacks in Germany or against Germans abroad. When in 1979 the police arrested 11 Palestinians with explosives in West Berlin and at a number of border crossings, Frangi's friend, the armchair terrorist Hindi, asked the German Embassy in Beirut for a meeting. The files indicate that the mood was "relaxed and friendly."
Hindi openly admitted that the men had had orders to send parcel bombs to Israel. He also said that he would continue to "conduct such operations against Israel" and that he would have to "use other countries as operating bases." Hindi advised the Germans to take the Italians' approach, saying that Rome "tacitly" allowed him and his compatriots to operate in Italy.
What happened after that remains one of the secrets of the former West Germany. It is clear that the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) cooperated with the PLO, as evidenced by a telex from the embassy in Beirut reporting on a meeting between Hindi and a BKA official on June 14, 1980. According to the message, Hindi complained that the press had gotten wind of the connections between the PLO and the BKA. He also claimed that the leak was on the German side. An indiscretion like this could jeopardize cooperation, Hindi threatened, telling the BKA official that either the two organizations "continue working together in secret, or not at all."
Hindi died of cancer in 2010, and most of the others behind the Munich massacre are now dead, as well. One of the three terrorists whose release the PLO secured by hijacking a Lufthansa flight occasionally appears in documentary films. There is still a German warrant out for his arrest, but there is nothing to suggest that German authorities have ever tried to find him.
Given these circumstances, there is every indication that he will not be tried for the murder of the 11 Israelis and a German police officer, at least not in a German court.
Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan
- Part 1: Germany's Secret Contacts to Palestinian Terrorists
- Part 2: Germany Did Not Push for Terrorist's Extradition