Attack on Oktoberfest: Compensation 40 years later

Decades after the Oktoberfest attack, the victims should still be compensated: with 1.2 million euros. A victim lawyer thinks this is not enough.

Oktoberfest attack in Munich in 1980 – corpses are removed in coffins Photo: Werek / image

BERLIN / MUNICH taz | The bomb detonated on September 26, 1980 at 10:19 p.m. at the entrance to the Munich Oktoberfest. It killed 13 people, including the right-wing extremist Gundolf Köhler, and injured another 211. It is the most serious right-wing terrorist attack in the Federal Republic to date. And many victims continue to suffer from the act. Now they are being compensated.

Federal Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht announced on Wednesday that those affected – 40 years after the attack – should receive “support payments” totaling 1.2 million euros. The attack remains “a deep turning point in post-war history,” said the SPD politician, with injuries to this day. The aim of the compensation is to “send a late but important sign of solidarity with those affected by this devastating attack”. The state must “be more there for those affected by right-wing extremism, racism and hatred”.

The fund is to be financed by the federal government and the Free State of Bavaria at EUR 500,000 each, plus EUR 200,000 from the city of Munich. The federal government had approved the post on Wednesday in its draft for the federal budget 2021. The Bavarian cabinet had already decided its part on Tuesday. In Munich, the city council is still pending a resolution.

Bavaria’s Minister of Social Affairs, Carolina Trautner (CSU), also called the fund a “sign against right-wing extremism”. “It is indescribable how much suffering the attack on the Munich Oktoberfest caused.” For Munich’s Lord Mayor Dieter Reiter (SPD), the joint fund comes “much too late”, but it shows “that all political levels are willing To give people of this incredibly cruel right-wing terrorist attack the attention and financial support they have long deserved ”.

Reassessment of the attack

The compensation comes about because the federal prosecutor’s office reassessed the attack in July. For almost six years, the authority had reopened the investigation after the single perpetrator thesis was repeatedly questioned and new indications of accomplices were found. The search for clues was unsuccessful – the federal prosecutor’s office now officially classified the act as right-wing extremist for the first time. The conviction of the assassin and his relevant contacts to the right-wing extremist military sports group Hoffmann speak for this.

The victims had long fought for this recognition as a right-wing extremist act. Shortly after the reclassification in July 2020, Lambrecht’s Ministry announced compensation from the federal government. Now, shortly before the 40th anniversary of the assassination, this is being redeemed. The federal government, Bavaria and the city of Munich had struggled to the last about what the fund should look like and how it should reach the victims. Reiter was satisfied with the solution on Wednesday: It was Munich’s claim to “help the survivors as unbureaucratically as possible”.

Shortly after the attack, the Free State paid the injured person 500,000 DM as a kind of compensation for pain and suffering. From 1982 the city of Munich raised one million DM as emergency aid for the victims, and in the following year another 200,000 DM, also collected with donations. From 2018, the city paid a further 100,000 euros to finance treatment costs for those affected that were not paid by the pension offices. However, these payments were not considered official compensation.

Victims were “treated shabbily”

The Munich lawyer Werner Dietrich, who represents 16 victims of the attack, had long been demanding compensation from the federal government. According to his information, many of those affected never received the first compensation for pain and suffering from 1980. Dietrich was ambivalent about the current fund. “It is a success and great progress that the long stories of suffering of those affected are finally recognized,” he told the taz. Some of the victims had been “treated rather shabbily” by the authorities in the past. A “quick and unbureaucratic” payment is now decisive.

At the same time, Dietrich considers the sum of 1.2 million euros to be too low. The lawyer assumes there are still almost 100 victims of the attack who, according to his opinion, should be paid between 30,000 and 100,000 euros depending on the severity of the injury. The 1.2 million euros would not be enough for that. It would therefore have made more sense to have a “breathing upper limit” for the compensation, said Dietrich.

The victims of the attack will be remembered with a memorial ceremony on Saturday in Munich. In addition to survivors, Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Bavaria’s Prime Minister Markus Söder (CSU) should also speak there. At the same time, a new documentation site is to be opened for the attack.