German and Israeli Air Force jets flew over the former Nazi concentration camp Dachau on Tuesday in tribute to the Jews and others killed there in the Holocaust.
Two Israeli F-16s and two German Eurofighters escorted an Israeli Air Force Gulfstream G-550 carrying the commanders of both air forces over the camp memorial outside Munich, while a third Eurofighter filmed the formation from the sky.
They also flew over the nearby Fuerstenfeldbruck airfield to pay tribute to the 11 Israeli athletes killed during the Munich massacre attack during the 1972 Summer Olympics.
Two athletes were killed and another nine taken hostage by the Palestinian terror group Black September from the Olympic Village on September 5, 1972. During a botched rescue attempt at the airfield by German police, the other athletes, along with five of their captors and a West German police officer, were killed.
The Israeli aircraft are part of a group of six F-16s, two Gulfstreams and two Boeing 707 tanker jets that arrived in Germany on Monday for two weeks of exercises.
Operating out of a German air base in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia, they will be conducting exercises with the German air force for the first week, and also planes from the Hungarian air force in the second week.
It is the first time ever that the Israeli Air Force has participated in such exercises in Germany. A total of around 180 Israeli personnel are involved.
Luftwaffe chief Ingo Gerhartz in a statement called the joint exercise “a sign of our friendship today.”
He said it was also a reminder that Germany has an enduring responsibility “to fight anti-Semitism with the utmost consistency” because of its Nazi past.
The IAF said the mission, which runs until August 28, will give its pilots a chance to practice in unfamiliar surroundings and will include simulated dogfights, air-to-ground battles and missile threats.
Israeli pilots will also take part in aerial maneuvers with Germany and other NATO members during the deployment.
Germany and Israel have stepped up their military cooperation in recent years, with the Luftwaffe taking part in joint exercises in the Israeli Negev desert in 2019.
But the landmark Israeli visit to Germany is heavy with history.
More than 40,000 Jews were killed at Dachau during World War II.
It will be “a very moving event for everyone,” said an Israeli officer identified as Major T, whose own grandfather was a Holocaust survivor, earlier on Tuesday.
The homage comes as Germany grapples with an upsurge in anti-Semitic and far-right violence, 75 years after the defeat of the Nazi regime.
In the eastern city of Halle last year, a neo-Nazi shot dead two people after trying but failing to storm a synagogue.
The attack prompted Chancellor Angela Merkel to say Germany needed “to do more” to protect Jewish people.
In June, German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer ordered the partial dissolution of Germany’s elite KSK commando force after revelations that some of its members harboured neo-Nazi sympathies.