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Munich remembers 1972 Olympic victims

The Local · 5 Sep 2012, 17:01

Published: 05 Sep 2012 17:01 GMT+02:00

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Bavaria State Premier Horst Seehofer promised that a memorial room would be set up in Munich, and told Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom: “We cannot heal the wounds, but we can try to reduce the pain.”

Wreaths were laid at the Olympic village where the attack began, and then a service was held at the Fürstenfeldbruck Air Base, west of Munich, where the hostage drama ended in a bloodbath. Not only 11 Israeli athletes were killed, but also five Palestinian terrorists and one German police officer.

Flags flew at half-mast on southern Bavarian state public buildings as the ecumenical memorial service took place at the base, the site of the climax of the hostage-taking by members of a radical Palestinian group known as "Black September".

Six survivors and 11 relatives of the Israeli athletes and coaches taken hostage and subsequently killed were expected to attend the commemoration, to be addressed by, among others, Ankie Spitzer, widow of fencing coach Andre Spitzer.

The 40th anniversary has given rise to new research into the horrifying chain of events at the summer Munich Games, which were meant to showcase the new face of Germany nearly three decades after World War II.

On September 5, 1972, gunmen broke into the Israeli team's flat at the Olympic village, immediately killing two of the athletes and taking nine others hostage to demand the release of 232 Palestinian prisoners.

A bungled rescue operation resulted in all of the hostages being killed, along with a West German policeman and five of the eight hostage-takers.

The news sent shockwaves through Germany just 27 years after the Holocaust, and it caused a deep rift with Israel.

Israeli sprinter Esther Roth-Shachamorov relived the terror in an interview with AFP this week.

"I remember an exhausting and frightening day," she said.

"We saw the Germans conducting negotiations with the terrorists through the balcony. They were threatening every two hours that if 200 Palestinians were not released, they would throw an Israeli down on the street," she added.

Henry Hershkovitz, who was on the Olympic shooting team and has returned to the stadium, was quoted Wednesday by the Berliner Zeitung newpaper saying: "We were like a family and most of this family was killed."

Former fencer Yehuda Weinstain told the paper: "The Games admittedly went on but their spirit had been murdered."

Forty years later the events continue to provoke controversy.

Last week, Israel released official documents on the killings, including specially declassified material and an official account from the former Israeli intelligence head, lambasting the performance of the German security services.

The German police "didn't make even a minimal effort to save human lives," former Mossad head Zvi Zamir said at the time after returning from Munich.

He said elite German snipers had been equipped only with pistols, and that personnel carriers meant for the rescue operation had arrived late.

"They had no follow-up plan, nor any means of improvising an alternative," he said.

Story continues below…

Meanwhile Der Spiegel in July accused the German government and Olympic organisers of covering up grave mistakes.

Months before the hostage-taking, the German interior ministry and the Bavarian state police warned federal authorities in vain of the possibility of "terrorist acts" at the Games, the magazine said.

The report recalled that the Olympic village was surrounded by a simple chain link fence without security reinforcements.

The head of the Munich police evidently feared that a robust security presence would revive ugly memories of the 1936 Games in Berlin, presided over by Adolf Hitler.

AFP/DPA/The Local/hc

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

22:18 September 5, 2012 by steel jaws
It is rather sad to see the death of young Israeli athletes being misused again for political reasons. The killing of these sport contestants can in no way be justified. Nevertheless, the background leading to this terrorist attack is little better than the action itself. To say this crime was assisted by Nazi sympathisers is at the very least highly misleading. It was on the whole at that time, the extreme left, amongst others the (RAF), who had contacts to militant Palestinians.

It is also most noticeable how little was said, at the remembrance assembly, about the brave German policeman who also lost his life in the attempt to save the hostages.

Those blaming the Germans for everything which went wrong in Munich and claiming the cold hearted approach of those responsible, should perhaps first examine their own attitude towards others involved. The murder of innocent people is always sad and unwarranted, no fair-minded person would wish to support such an act, but such tragedies do not occur without a process which leads up to them.
03:22 September 6, 2012 by mike_1983
in 1972 there were a few thousand muslems in germany.... now millions.... smart move german government, smart move!
10:14 September 6, 2012 by septiSeverus
@ by mike _ 1983

Clarify what the few thousand Muslims living in Germany had to do with what happened in Munich 1972?

Regarding your statement ¦quot;in 1972 there were a few thousand Muslims living in Germany¦quot;.

The largest Muslim population in Germany were mainly Turkish citizens and their descendants. And, the Turkish population in 1972 was over 700,000.
10:45 September 6, 2012 by Hell low Kitty
@steel jaws Reminds me of Benno Ohnesorg, he was a pacifist and a member of an christ protestant student community. The West Berlin police officer Karl-Heinz Kurras hit the 26-year-old with a fatal gun shot from close range in the back of the head, during a demonstration against the visit of the Shah of Persia.Kurras was an unofficial secret member of the East German(DDR) Ministry for State Security. This was one of the triggers for the founding of the RAF.The RAF thought it was tolerated by the fashist exNazi western politicians.The RAF later got support, and shelter from the DDR,while naive to realize that in the DDR were former exNazis secretly in political positions too and rule the DDR. But i've also read that there was a helper in the Nazi scene.So both sides was,not knowing from each other,sometimes closer,as they wish for.How silly is that in hindsight. And yes,@mike_1983 Sooner or later the Muslim Terror will end someday with the same silly Story,when all comes out. I bet !!
13:13 September 6, 2012 by mobaisch
ah , its time for the next free submarine already?
13:22 September 6, 2012 by septiSeverus
Muslim Terror?

Christians, Jews and Muslims all share in the same handicap...delusions of grandeur as a result of perpetuating outdated fairy tails and ancient mythology of their religions.

Fear mongering ¦quot;Muslim Terror¦quot; is a useful tactic.

A Judeo-Christian-Islamic religious terror is more appropriate.
14:45 September 6, 2012 by Hell low Kitty
There is no Judeo-Christian-Islamic religious whatever!

If muslims feel so oppressed, the west has given them fair opportunities like no other "Folk" in the world to form themselves and to protect their health and right to earn money. They det the chance to train,educate,develop for example Nurses,Doctors,Chirugs, Peace Researchers, Interlectuelles Political Mediators, Peacemakers, Journalists, Filmmakers,Professors,Nobel Price Winners,etc. The sad truth is;they don`t care for each other,muslim solidarity is a myth,they are not really intrested for their neighbors. But thea are the best in complaining and to put their fauld on others.
22:02 September 14, 2012 by michael valerio
Get over it Munich. It is politicians like Horst Seehofer that keep dragging Germany down. Apologist, groveling and giving in to jewish demands seems to be the current German way.
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