The Munich massacre 1972

The 1972 Munich massacre in pictures - Photo: Max Scheler

Shadow over the Games

On the evening of September 4, 1972, the Israeli athletes enjoyed a free evening in Munich. In the Deutsches Theater they attended a performance of "Fiddler on the Roof" with the famous Israeli actor Shmuel Rodensky. The photos - availaible exclusively at SZ Photo - of the athletes with the star testify to an happy atmosphere. Hours later, many of the laughing Olympians in the pictures are dead. In the early morning of September 5, 1972, members of the Palestinian terrorist organization Black September attacked the Israeli Olympic team while they were sleeping in their accommodation in the Olympic Village and took eleven hostages: David Mark Berger (weightlifter), Ze'ev Friedman (weightlifter), Yossef Gutfreund (wrestling referee), Eliezer Halfin (wrestler), Josef Romano (weightlifter), André Spitzer (fencing coach), Amitzur Schapira (track and field coach), Kehat Shorr (shooting coach), Mark Slavin (wrestler), Yakov Springer (weightlifting referee) and Moshe Weinberg (wrestling coach). Weinberg and Romano resisted, they are the first to be killed. Later in the day, an attempt at negotiation between the terrorists and the police failed. Bavarian Interior Minister Bruno Merk and German Interior Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher offered themselves as exchange hostages to no avail. A rescue operation by the police and the Federal Border Guard finally ended in a fatal fiasco: At the Fürstenfeldbruck airfield, where the terrorists went with the hostages because the German negotiators pretended to give in to their demand for free escort to Cairo, there was an exchange of fire lasting several hours, and a helicopter exploded. All eleven Israeli hostages were killed, as were a policeman and five terrorists. Devastating mistakes and misjudgments by the hopelessly overburdened police and authorities led to the disaster. The pictures of the terrorists in balaclavas and tracksuits on the balconies of the Olympic Village and of the failure of the police went live around the world. It was only as a consequence of the Olympic attack that the GSG 9, for example, was established in Germany for anti-terrorist operations. In Munich today, the memorial to the victims of the 1972 Olympic attack and the "Einschnitt" memorial site commemorate the tragedy, as does the memorial at the Fürstenfeldbruck air base. And the Games? After a one-day interruption and a funeral service in the Olympic Stadium on September 6, attended by 80,000 people, the then IOC President Avery Brundage allowed the competitions to continue with the following, now famous words: "The games must go on!"