Such Leniency


One of the hostage takers during the Munich Massacre, at the 1972 Summer Olympics, Munich. Photograph by Russell McPhedran

From Der Spiegel:

The men who were arrested in the Munich house of former Waffen-SS member Charles Jochheim late on Oct. 27, 1972 were armed like soldiers on their way to the front. In one suitcase, police found three Kalashnikov automatic rifles, six magazines, 174 rounds of ammunition, two pistols, a revolver and six Belgian-made hand grenades.

The two men who were arrested were also carrying other weapons. Wolfgang Abramowski had weapons hidden in his waistband, while his accomplice, Willi Pohl, was carrying two pistols and a hand grenade, according to a Munich police investigative report.

A fellow member of a right-wing extremist splinter group calling itself the “National Socialist Fighting Group for a Greater Germany” had tipped off the police about Pohl and Abramowski. The two men allegedly planned to use the weapons to free a fellow extremist who was in prison, but investigators soon questioned whether this story was true.

Among the documents Abramowski and Pohl were carrying was a threatening letter to a Munich judge tasked with clearing up one of the most shocking crimes in postwar German history: the massacre at the Munich Summer Olympics.

The German courts treated Pohl and Abramowski with astonishing leniency. The investigations into suspected violations of the War Weapons Control Act and “membership in a criminal organization” came to nothing, even though the exhibits included “operation plans for hostage-taking” that “implied the kidnappings of unidentified personalities in Essen, Bochum and Cologne.”

In 1974, the two Germans were merely convicted of illegal possession of firearms. Abramowski was sentenced to eight months and Pohl to 26 months in prison. Only four days after sentencing, Pohl was released and fled to Beirut. There is nothing in the files to explain the reasons behind such leniency.

Perhaps the authorities feared that the Palestinians could also try to gain Pohl’s freedom with the same approach they had used to secure the release of the three surviving members of the Olympic attack operation: by hijacking a German airliner. A few days after Pohl’s arrest, terrorists from the PLO’s Fatah faction hijacked a Lufthansa flight bound for Frankfurt. The German government gave in to their demands, and the three were flown to Libya.

“Files Reveal Neo-Nazis Helped Palestinian Terrorists”, Gunther Latsch and Klaus Wiegrefe, Der Spiegel