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Fire Kills Seven Elderly Jews; Pres. Heinemann Denounces Arsonists

February 16, 1970
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The West German Government has posted a 75,000 mark ($20,500) reward for information leading to the capture of arsonists responsible for a fire here Friday that took the lives of seven middle aged and elderly Jews. President Gustav Heinemann of the Federal Republic denounced the outrage today. He said he was particularly disgusted because the victims were persons who have suffered so much in the past. Police in all ten West German states and in West Berlin are guarding Jewish community centers, synagogues, schools and kindergartens. The fire gutted a four-story stucco building that housed a community center, an old aged home and a synagogue. Police Commissioner Hans Vogel declared that it was arson. Police discovered a gasoline can in the stairwell of the building. The flames broke out on the top floor and spread swiftly along the wooden corridors and stairs.

After announcing the reward, the highest in post-war German history, Interior Minister Hans Dietrich Genscher flew to Munich where he inspected the burned out building. A 30-man team of Federal and Bavarian State police is investigating the blaze. They are the same team assigned to the case of three Arab terrorists who attacked El Al passengers at Munich Airport last Tuesday, killing one and injuring 23 other persons. According to a report from Amman, Jordan, carried on the West German radio yesterday, the Palestinian terrorist organization that claimed credit for the Munich Airport attack denied any connection with the fire in the Jewish community center. The prevailing opinion here is that the fire was set by Arab agents or by German extremists of the far left or far right.

West German Chancellor Willy Brandt, who is visiting Denmark, pledged that “We will do everything to capture the culprit or culprits.” Miximilian Taucher, president of the Jewish community of Bavaria, declared that the outrage was aimed not only at the Jews of Munich but at “all Jewish communities in Germany and throughout the world.” Minister Genscher said the Federal Republic would do everything possible to see that Germany does not become “a playground for terrorists.” But he saw no connection between the fire and the Arab attack at Munich Airport.

According to the police, two of the victims were survivors of Nazi concentration camps. They were identified as David Jakubowicz, 60, who was born in Czechoslovakia and George Pfau, 63, born in Lemberg, who held German and Israeli nationality. Both men had families in Israel. The other victims were listed as Mrs. Jadwiga Pfau; Regina Becher, 59, a Rumanian-born milliner who held Brazilian nationality; Leopold Gimpel, 50, born in Lemberg and a resident of the United States for several years; Max Blum, 71, an American citizen who worked as a furrier; and Siegfried Offenbacher, 70, a librarian of German and Israeli nationality.

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