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CRIME

Rare grape harvest cancelled in Hamburg after thieves strip vines

The wine harvest at one of Germany’s most northerly vineyards has been cancelled this year after thieves stole most of the grapes off the vine from the hill above the left bank of Hamburg’s harbour in the St. Pauli district, the city said on Wednesday.

Rare grape harvest cancelled in Hamburg after thieves strip vines
What's left of the white Phoenix grapes. Photo: DPA

Thieves stole between 80 and 90 percent of the small crop of premium grapes destined to become this year’s “Stintfang-Cuvée” wine on Tuesday evening, just one day ahead of the traditional harvest.

“I had hoped I could still save something,” said Fritz Currle, the vintner who has guided the blend of red Regent and white Phoenix grapes for the last 15 years. “But I can’t save anything if there’s nothing there.”

The name of the wine comes from the vineyard’s location on the Stintfang, the hill above the landmark St. Pauli Landing Bridges over the Elbe River. In 1996 the organisers of the annual Stuttgart wine festival Stuttgarter Weindorf gave the vines to the city as a gift to celebrate their 10-year partnership with the city in staging a Hamburg version of the event in front of city hall each year.

But Stuttgarter Weindorf organiser Axel Grau discovered on Tuesday night that the thieves had left only enough of the grapes to fill a laundry basket.

Twenty-five new vines had been planted in early August on the south-facing slope, making a total of 100. The city had been optimistic about the 2010 harvest, which was expected to yield the yearly average of between 40 to 50 bottles of the highly-exclusive, not-for-sale wine. The grapes are usually transported to Stuttgart for pressing, then presented to Hamburg officials to celebrate the next wine festival. Bottles are often given to prominent visitors to the city.

But this year the pitifully few remaining grapes neglected by the unknown thieves will now be donated to a homeless shelter, vineyard organisers decided.

Although police have begun conducting interviews, they have no leads at present, they said.

DAPD/rm

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GERMANY AND ISRAEL

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.

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