Munich 1972 – The 11 terror victims

Early in the morning on September 5, 1972, some members of the Israeli delegation woke up at 31 Connolly Street in the Olympic Village to the cries of Yossef Gutfreund, who was trying to bar the doorway with his body in order to prevent Palestinian terrorists from entering as he called out to his teammates to escape from the apartment.

The Israelis in the adjacent apartments, who didn’t respond to Gutfreund’s cries, woke up to the sound of gunshots and caught a glimpse of wrestling coach Moshe Weinberg, who had been injured in his face.

After a struggle during which Moshe Weinberg and Yosef Romano were murdered, the remaining athletes and their coaches who were caught were bound and held in one of the delegation’s rooms and were threatened by eight terrorists armed with submachine guns, pistols and hand grenades.

The terrorists demanded the release of 234 Arab terrorists and two Germans in exchange for the Israelis. They demanded that the terrorists be flown from Israel to an Arab country and claimed that if their demands were not met by 12:00 noon, they would kill two of the abducted Israelis and that they would kill two more every additional hour.

Once the ultimatum passed, negotiations with the terrorists began. After a nerve-racking wait that lasted all day long, the terrorists agreed to be flown to an Arab country, along with the Israeli athletes who had been taken hostage.

At 22:30, nine of the athletes and their abductors were driven from their room to a corner of the Olympic Village, where two helicopters awaited them. The Israeli athletes were led into the helicopters under the terrorists’ threats, bound to one another and with their hands tied.

When the two helicopters landed at a German military airport, the German police made an unsuccessful attempt to rescue the Israeli athletes, which  enabled the terrorists to murder the nine remaining Israeli athletes, who were bound and defenseless inside the helicopters. Incidentally, three of the terrorists who were captured were released on October 30, 1972, less than two months after the incident when the West German government gave in to the demands made by the Black September terrorist organization that had hijacked a Lufthansa passenger plane.

Ever since the massacre, Olympic Committee of Israel has perpetuated the legacy of these 11 athletes. Each year on the Hebrew date of the 26th of Elul, there is a commemoration and national memorial ceremony that is conducted at the Monument of the 11, on Weizmann Street in Tel Aviv. In addition, Israeli Olympic delegations visit this Monument on the eve of their departure for any Olympic Games. During the Olympic Games itself, the Olympic Committee of Israel holds a memorial service for the 11 Munich victims where the presidents of the International and national Olympic Committees, members of the local Jewish community, dignitaries and Olympic officials are invited. The families of the Munich 11 are an inseparable part of those events.

Yossef Romano

Zeev Freidman

Yossef Gotfreund

Yaakov Shpringer

Moshe Weinberg

Mark Slavin

Kehat Shor

Eliezer Halfin

David Berger

Andrei Shpitzer

Amitzur Shapira