Baltic island Usedom terrorised by arson spree

Another northern German island has become the target of arsonists. After this summer’s series of fires on the North Sea island of Sylt, police said Monday they are investigating similar fires set on Usedom in the Baltic Sea.

Baltic island Usedom terrorised by arson spree
Photo: DPA

Following seven fires on the island’s southern peninsula of Lieper Winkel, police in the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania have begun undercover operations to nab the culprit, police spokeswoman Denise Lemke said.

The most recent fire, set some two weeks ago, marked a new escalation in the arson spree, prompting police to intensify their investigation, she added.

Officers have no solid leads on suspects, but have refused to reveal more details despite growing concerns among residents.

“We understand the fears and worries of residents concerned about their homes,” Lemke said. “We are doing something, even when the investigations can’t be made apparent to the public.”

The string of fires on Usedom actually began before those on Sylt this summer. In August Sylt police arrested a 46-year-old suspect after fire fighters put out a series of blazes over the course of a week.

The first fire on Usedom was in June, though. It started with hay bales and scrap wood, but the perpetrator has grown bolder, moving on to animal stalls and a family home, police said.

According to their estimate, the perpetrator has probably observed his targets extensively before lighting the fires, because each time property owners were not home, police said.

Meanwhile residents of the picturesque holiday destination region remain anxious.

Head of the southern Usedom regional administration office and tourism board member Karl-Heinz Schröder called the situation “uncomfortable.”

“We’re hoping for a quick explanation,” he said.


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Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

The German government says it is in talks over further compensation for victims of the attack on the Munich Olympics, as the 50th anniversary of the atrocity approaches.

Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

Ahead of the commemoration in September, relatives of the Israelis killed have indicated they are unhappy with what Germany is offering.

“Conversations based on trust are taking place with representatives of the victims’ families,” a German interior ministry spokesman told AFP when asked about the negotiations.

He did not specify who would benefit or how much money had been earmarked, saying only that any package would “again” be financed by the federal government, the state of Bavaria and the city of Munich.

On September 5th, 1972, eight gunmen broke into the Israeli team’s flat at the Olympic village, shooting dead two and taking nine Israelis hostage, threatening to kill them unless 232 Palestinian prisoners were released.

West German police responded with a bungled rescue operation in which all nine hostages were killed, along with five of the eight hostage-takers and a police officer.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists  held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Horst Ossingert

The spokeswoman for the victims’ families, Ankie Spitzer, told the German media group RND that the amount currently on the table was “insulting” and threatened a boycott of this year’s commemorations.

She said Berlin was offering a total of €10 million including around €4.5 million already provided in compensation between 1972 and 2002 — an amount she said did not correspond to international standards. 

“We are angry and disappointed,” said Spitzer, the widow of fencing coach Andre Spitzer who was killed in the attack. “We never wanted to talk publicly about money but now we are forced to.”

RND reported that the German and Israeli governments would like to see an accord by August 15th.

The interior ministry spokesman said that beyond compensation, Germany intended to use the anniversary for fresh “historical appraisal, remembrance and recognition”.

He said this would include the formation of a commission of German and Israeli historians to “comprehensively” establish what happened “from the perspective of the year 2022”.

This would lead to “an offer of further acts of acknowledgement of the relatives of the victims of the attack” and the “grave consequences” they suffered.