As the eyes of the world are focused on Rio de Janeiro with the Olympics starting this Friday, we stop and look back to remember the dark days 44 years ago during the Munich Games. Eight Palestinians, part of the “Black September” terror group, stormed the athlete's village under cover of darkness. They targeted the Israeli athletes and coaches who were housed in an isolated area not far from the gates of the compound.
Two Israelis were killed in the initial attack, and nine more were taken hostage. The Palestinians demanded the release of more than 200 convicted terrorists being held in Israeli prisons in exchange for the hostages. It is unclear whether they ever had any intention of releasing the hostages, but a badly botched rescue attempt by German police forces who were poorly trained and equipped for the mission, resulted in all of the hostages and five of the terrorists being killed.
Those who saw those events unfold will never forget the tragic announcement made by ABC broadcaster Jim McKay. He said, “When I was a kid, my father used to say 'Our greatest hopes and our worst fears are seldom realized.' Our worst fears have been realized tonight. They've now said that there were eleven hostages. Two were killed in their rooms yesterday morning, nine were killed at the airport tonight. They're all gone.”
The Black September attack was funded by a man called Abu Mazen. Today he is better know as Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority. Abbas claims he did not know what the money he provided was to be used for, and continues to insist, at least publicly, on his innocence of any responsibility for the brutal murder of the Israeli athletes and coaches.
In response to the attack, Israeli intelligence launched Mivtza Za'am Ha'El, Operation Wrath of God, to track down not only the surviving Black September terrorists, but those who had planned and facilitated the attack. In the following years Israeli strike teams attacked PLO targets and officials across Europe, Africa and Asia in an operation designed to discourage further attacks.
The world continues to refuse to acknowledge the level of hatred directed toward the Jewish people. The International Olympic Committee turned down a request in 2012 on the fortieth anniversary of the attack for a moment of silence at the London Games to honor the slain Israeli Olympians. The IOC Chairman said it would be “inappropriate.” But while some may choose to look the other way and try to forget, we will not. We will stand with Israel and the Jewish people and join them in declaring “Never Again!”
The Eleven Israel Athletes and Officials Murdered in Munich
Moshe Weinberg, wrestling coach
Yossef Romano, weightlifter
Ze'ev Friedman, weightlifter
David Berger, weightlifter
Yakov Springer, weightlifting judge
Eliezer Halfin, wrestler
Yossef Gutfreund, wrestling referee
Kehat Shorr, shooting coach
Mark Slavin, wrestler
Andre Spitzer, fencing coach
Amitzur Shapira, track coach
The photo image above is of the plaque in front of the Israeli athletes' quarters commemorating the victims of the Munich massacre. The inscription, in German and en:Hebrew, reads: The team of the State of Israel lived in this building during the 20th Olympic Summer Games from 21 August to 5 September 1972. On 5 September, [list of victims] died a violent death. Honor to their memory. Photo from Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Germany, Connollystraße 31 - Gedenktafel.