Commemoration of the Oktoberfest attack – take hate seriously! – opinion

One of the victims of the Oktoberfest attack called on those affected to commemorate the 40th anniversary to look forward, not back, not to torment themselves with thoughts of why and why, but to take life into their own hands. It was a deeply humane, comforting call.

But if the Federal President had said something similar, he would have made a big, a political mistake. For the first time in 40 years, a Federal President has paid tribute to the survivors of the right-wing radical attack of September 26, 1980 and nothing would have been worse than Frank-Walter Steinmeier had pasted this memorial with the sweet sauce of harmony. Or with the gesture of the all-understanding, all-forgiving, all-unifying head of state.

Steinmeier did not do that. On the contrary. He gave a painfully clear, incorruptibly precise speech. He didn’t blur anything, didn’t overlook anything, didn’t iron anything out. Face to face with the Attorney General, the Bavarian Prime Minister and the Lord Mayor of Munich, he named the mistakes that were made: that the right-wing extremist motive of the assassin was not recognized, but that the assassination attempt was played down as an act of a mentally unstable individual perpetrator. That society recklessly ignored the victims until the next morning the Oktoberfest continued. And that they were left alone with their sufferings and fears without caring for them. Steinmeier also did not hide the fact that the attack was used in the election campaign between Franz Josef Strauss and Helmut Schmidt. Without regard to losses.

Of course, it’s easier for everyone to apologize after 40 years, to distance oneself, to admit mistakes than immediately after the attack. The Bavarian CSU Minister of the Interior can now easily say what would have brought him the kink in his career a few years ago: namely that the father of the CSU, Franz Josef Strauss, was completely wrong in assessing the right-wing extremist military sports group Hoffmann as a harmless weirdo. Ironically, the military sports group where the Oktoberfest bomber had trained. Now, in the face of the victims, Bavaria’s Prime Minister Markus Söder has also declared that errors had been made in the assessment of the attack and the investigation. I’m sorry for that. Hopefully he is also sorry not long ago that he thought he had to serve right-wing extremists. How serious Söder is, will be shown by the value of the “promise of protection” against right-wing violent criminals that he gave at the memorial ceremony.

It is one thing to lament the mistakes of 1980 and another to learn lessons from them for the present. Based on the failures in the Munich attack, Steinmeier developed instructions for action for politics, the police and the judiciary in 2020: Don’t look the other way, cover nothing, not even when it comes to internal chats between police colleagues, tracking backers, uncovering networks and don’t always speak of lone perpetrators. And take seriously the hatred on which the seeds of violence thrive. Steinmeier’s speech should be read by every policeman, every intelligence officer, every public prosecutor and every judge. One can learn from it. So that in 40 years no one has to apologize for the omissions of the present.

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Oktoberfest attack: “Looking away no longer allowed” – Munich

Nobody can hide on this day. They all have to listen to him, the Federal President, everyone is here: the Federal Public Prosecutor, whose house ordered the destruction of the evidence from the assassination in 1997 and thus made the later investigation impossible. The Lord Mayor of the City of Munich, who today apologizes for the fact that back then – only hours after the attack – the city just let the party go on as if nothing had happened. The Bavarian Prime Minister, whose predecessors failed to commemorate Theresienwiese for 40 years.

The Federal President speaks of anger and wounds and he is serious. He speaks of the wounds of the victims of the Oktoberfest attack 40 years ago, but also of the wounds of the rule of law that the bombing of the right-wing extremist assassin hit. He speaks of the anger about the trivialization of the attack and the missed opportunities to clear it up. He thinks of the past, but he talks about the present. Just three days ago, Frank-Walter Steinmeier met with the victims of the right-wing attack in Hanau. Soon he will be traveling on the anniversary of the assassination attempt on the Halle synagogue.

The danger from the right has not diminished in the past 40 years, says the Federal President at the commemorative event for the Oktoberfest attack in Munich. “So let’s keep the memory of Munich alive – including the mistakes that have been made. Only those who know their mistakes will be able to correct them.” And enough mistakes were made: the investigation soon stopped, the evidence was destroyed, the perpetrator was misunderstood as a mentally unstable student who only murdered out of personal problems and not in order to influence the 1980 federal elections. The Federal Prosecutor’s Office has only now recognized the political motive after the investigation was restarted.

“The perpetrators were involved in networks of hatred”

The Federal President addresses all of this very openly. The inadequate explanation of the attack not only hurts the victims of the time, he says. “Our democratic community, our constitutional state, has also suffered a wound – to this day.” And he says something that many state politicians still do not want to admit: “The right-wing terrorist murders of the past decades were not the work of confused people. The perpetrators were integrated into networks of hatred and violence or were incited to their acts by them. We have to track down these networks. We have to fight them – even more decisively than before! ” This also applies to the perpetrators in Hanau and Halle. It is almost a concrete task for the police, the protection of the constitution and the judiciary.

The head of state says very seriously: “Looking the other way is no longer allowed. Not after the Oktoberfest attack, not after the NSU trial, after the threatening letters of NSU 2.0, after weapons finds and enemy lists of so-called prepper groups with connections to reservists of the Bundeswehr, detectives, special operations units, yes even to judges and employees of the protection of the constitution, not after the discovery of a right-wing extremist chat group within the police in North Rhine-Westphalia. Enemies of freedom and democracy must not be tolerated in the police. Every effort must be made to expose right-wing extremist networks, wherever They exist. The police leaderships and those politically responsible must not tolerate a climate in which they arise and can be covered by others. “

He names everything that goes wrong in Germany and that has been played down and belittled for years. He does this in a place that couldn’t be more symbolic. At the entrance to the Oktoberfest. This is exactly where the right-wing extremist Gundolf Köhler’s bomb exploded 40 years ago. She killed twelve people and injured more than 200, some seriously. A number of survivors are now sitting in front of the Federal President. People who have lost their siblings, their love, their legs. You can see some of them walking with difficulty, some come on a rollator or in a wheelchair. Many still have bomb fragments in their bodies. You sit there in the square in front of the entrance, wrapped in winter coats, only with rain capes against the gusts and the cold, driving rain. But they hold out. It is important to them. For the first time a Federal President is paying tribute to her suffering. After 40 years.

Affected people speak on stage

Steinmeier becomes very personal: “Nobody can escape the shadow that terror casts over a life,” he said and asks: “Who will ease your pain, who will help you in everyday life?” And: “How should a seven-year-old forget the picture of his seriously injured mother? How should he forget the firefighter who wanted to pray the Lord’s Prayer with him? How should a passionate mountaineer, who was torn apart by the bomb, forget that she was in the long Years after the assassination only saw mountain peaks in photos and instead had to laboriously learn to walk again? And above all: How do the mothers, fathers and children whose loved ones were killed live on? “

Four of those affected then go on stage themselves: Gudrun Lang, who lost her boyfriend at the age of 19, Renate Martinez, who was seriously injured as a young woman, Robert Höckmayr, who was only twelve and saw two of his siblings die. And Dimitrios Lagkadinos, from whom the bomb took his legs and his girlfriend. He had just turned 17. These people are very different. One says that for him every day is September 26th. He couldn’t forget. The other says she would have wished that the people behind the attack end up in prison. But they also talk about the power of humans that can overcome destruction. In the end, Lagkadinos rolls forward a little in his wheelchair. He addressed the victims of the attack directly: “I would like to make another appeal to those people who are having a hard time: Take your life in your hand and look ahead. Do not ask why and why. Such thoughts only torment you, that only weakens you. ” In the pouring rain, at the place of terror, shivering with the cold, this man says: “Believe me one thing: life is beautiful.” People clap.

Then the Bavarian Prime Minister climbs onto the stage. He makes a “protection promise”. The country will no longer underestimate the danger posed by right-wing extremists, says Markus Söder, he will take a clear line against old and new Nazis, and that is owed to the victims of the Oktoberfest attack. “Anyone who underestimates right-wing extremism is sinning against democracy,” says Söder.

In the end, the Federal President, together with the Lord Mayor of Munich Dieter Reiter and the victims, opened the new documentation center for the attack at the entrance to Theresienwiese. It was designed together with those affected. And the DGB youth organized the commemoration as it has done for 38 years, it has been doing it since then, when no one felt responsible for the victims. And she wants to keep it that way, she promised.

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Oktoberfest attack: 1.2 million euros for the victims – Munich

When you ask Renate Martinez these days whether someone has already contacted her about compensation from the state, she sighs audibly and a little bitterly. “Hopefully I’ll see it again,” she says with a touch of gallows humor.

As a young woman, Renate Martinez was seriously injured in the legs in the Oktoberfest attack on September 26, 1980 by the bomb of the right-wing extremist assassin Gundolf Köhler. Today she can only walk with difficulty on the rollator. Until recently, she did not really believe that after 40 years the state would still pull itself together to help the injured and victims of the Oktoberfest attack financially. Nice words, she said, nothing else.

Renate Martinez was wrong. She will receive a letter from Mayor Dieter Reiter in the next few weeks, announcing that the federal government, the state and the city now want to help her and the other more than 200 people injured in the attack. After months of negotiations, the federal government, the state of Bavaria and the city of Munich have agreed to set up a fund of 1.2 million euros from which the victims of the attack will receive unbureaucratic help. The federal government is paying € 500,000, Bavaria € 500,000, and the city of Munich € 200,000. A full four decades after the fact.

It should be noted in the words of Federal Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht, the Bavarian Social Minister Carolina Trautner and OB Reiter how urgently they consider this help to be – and how little they can understand that it took so long for this help to reach the victims . “A late, but nevertheless important sign of solidarity with those affected by this devastating attack,” said Justice Minister Lambrecht. And Reiter says: “Even if we cannot undo the suffering and painful memories of the survivors, this joint fund of the federal government, the Free State and the city shows – albeit much too late – that all political levels are willing to give the people this To give incredibly cruel right-wing terrorist attacks the attention and financial support they have long deserved. ” Long earned, much too late – these are characteristic words that suggest how much the state is behind in recognizing the victims.

Investigations were restarted – and only concluded in the summer

The city of Munich has given 100,000 euros in recent years. But the federal and state governments have been waiting for the assessment of the federal prosecutor’s office in Karlsruhe. The had resumed the investigation into the Oktoberfest attack in December 2014 and only now, in summer 2020, completed. Although it did not find anyone behind the attack, it turned the assessment of the act 180 degrees. Up until now, the assassination was considered an act of a lovesick young man, but not a right-wing terror. The fact that Gundolf Köhler trained with the right-wing extremist military sports group Hoffmann and had a picture of Hitler hanging over the bed was not taken by the investigators in 1980 as evidence of a political motive. The Federal Prosecutor’s Office sees it differently today: For them, the attack is clearly right-wing terror. Köhler wanted to influence the federal election ten days later, in which Franz Josef Strauss (CSU) ran against Chancellor Helmut Schmidt (SPD).

This new assessment is important for the victims. Because only it allows the authorities to fall back on the victim fund for victims of terrorism. It was only she who made the agreement between the federal government, the Free State and the city possible. The city of Munich will now organize the distribution of the money. And the mayor expressly wants it to be unbureaucratic. Nobody should have to beg for their money. So no more lengthy reports on the physical damage and its long-term consequences – because they are obvious after 40 years. No delay in paying out, because many of those affected are now of retirement age, their complaints are not getting any easier and they are not getting younger. Not all of the 211 people who survived the attack were injured are already living. The city of Munich still knows around 170 survivors. And they are now being written to.

In addition, there should be fixed contact persons for the victims so that they are not passed on from office to office. And the severity of the injuries should also play a role in the payment. There will be a phased procedure for this. Victim attorney Werner Dietrich had asked for something similar, but on a different financial scale.

The fund still has to go through the vote in the Bundestag, but, it is said in Berlin, one cannot imagine anyone voting against it. The city council in Munich still has to agree. But there shouldn’t be any resistance either. The money could be paid out from early 2021.

In a joint declaration on Wednesday, the federal government, the state and the city made it clear how important it is to them not to leave the victims alone. “We want to support the people who are still suffering from the consequences of the attack today. The state must be more there for those affected by right-wing extremism, racism and human hatred,” said Federal Justice Minister Lambrecht (SPD). Bavaria’s Minister of Social Affairs Trautner (CSU) said: “The Free State is taking a stand against right-wing extremism and is on the side of those affected, to whom our solidarity and our sympathy go.”

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