September 5–6, 1972
Before the war on terror…
There was Munich…
So begins the introduction to Munich 1972 & Beyond, a newly released Israeli documentary film that is the result of the tireless efforts by the families of the victims. Their one desire is to bring public recognition and official acknowledgment for their loved ones murdered during the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany. These family members have lived with the horrors of the day etched deeply into their memories.
Known as the Munich Massacre and orchestrated by the Palestinian terrorist group Black September, this hideous event culminated in the brutal killing of eleven members of the Israeli Olympic team and a German policeman. “They’re all gone…” The unforgettable words of ABC’s Jim McKay sent shockwaves throughout the entire world.
Germany, intent on trying to recover from its militaristic image of 1936 Hitler’s Germany, wanted to portray a positive, carefree, welcoming environment without the obvious presence of heavy security. But Shmuel Lalkin, the head of the Israeli delegation, was concerned about the apparent lack of security. “Lalkin said that he had also expressed concern with the relevant authorities about his team’s lodgings,” Wikipedia records. “The team was housed in a relatively isolated part of the Olympic Village, on the ground floor of a small building close to a gate, which Lalkin felt made his team particularly vulnerable to an outside assault. The West German authorities apparently assured Lalkin that extra security would be provided to look after the Israeli team…”
The Israeli athletes spent the prior evening, 4 September, in the city watching a performance of Fiddler on the Roof, followed by an opportunity to dine with star of the show, Israeli actor Shmuel Rodensky. Once back in their building, the athletes retired to their respective rooms.
In the early morning hours of September 5, the Palestinian terrorists, wearing ski masks, carrying AKM assault rifles, Tokarev pistols, and grenades, broke into the rooms of the sleeping athletes and quickly overtook them. Through the brave and sacrificial efforts of some, a few of the athletes were able to jump out of the windows and escape. The rest didn’t survive their hellish experience. Click here to read more on the Munich massacre.
Fast-forward to present day and the interviews with Ilana Romano and Ankie Spitzer, the wives of two of the victims. In September 1992, returning from a trip to Munich, their lawyer told them that he had some received some photographs that he felt they should know about, but not see. The women insisted on seeing them and are now breaking their silence on what they saw.
In Long-Hidden Details Reveal Cruelty of 1972 Munich Attackers, Sam Borden writes:
Among the most jarring details are these: The Israeli Olympic team members were beaten and, in at least one case, castrated.
“What they did is that they cut off his genitals through his underwear and abused him,” Ms. Romano said of her husband, Yossef. Her voice rose. She said she and family members of the other victims learned the details of how the victims were treated only 20 years after the attack. “Can you imagine the nine others sitting around tied up?” she continued, speaking in Hebrew through a translator. “They watched this.”
Operation Wrath of God
Following the attacks, Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir sanctioned Operation “Wrath of God,” also known as Operation “Bayonet,” a covert operation to eliminate everyone involved in the massacre of the Israeli athletes. Steven Spielberg’s film Munich, based on George Jonas’ book, Vengeance, is the account of that mission, as told by the group’s leader—the first Mossad agent to come out of “deep cover.” Spielberg’s film follows the hit squad on their dangerous mission.
Munich Memorial Project
This project has been initiated by the German States Ministry for Education, Science and Culture to honor the memory of the 11 killed Israelis. Out of a desire to provide “a visual understanding of the events that transpired on September 5th and 6th in 1972,” was born Munich 72 & Beyond.
Rio Olympic Committee Honors the Victims of the Munich Massacre…Finally!
“We waited for this for 44 years, to have this remembrance and recognition of our loved ones who were killed so brutally in Munich,” Ankie Spitzer said Wednesday. “We wanted them to be really accepted as members of the Olympic family. Now that President Bach had a minute of silence in the Olympic village, calling out the names of our loves ones, this is closure for us.”
Thanks to the efforts of IOC President Thomas Bach of Germany, the families of the victims of the Munich Massacre can move forward. The Olympic Village memorial site called the Place of Mourning, honors the memory of the Israelis as well as four other people who were killed during Olympic Games.
What happened 44 years ago should never be forgotten. Let us not in our rush to be loving and understanding forget that history has a way of repeating itself.