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The Munich Massacre occured at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, when eleven members of the Israeli team were taken hostage by Palestinian terrorists. A failed liberation attempt led to the deaths of all athletes, five of the hostage takers, and one policeman.
At 4:30 AM on September 5, five members of the Palestinian front Black September (with links to the PLO, the PFLP and the DFLP) scaled a short chain-link fence encompassing the Munich Olympic village to enter Israeli quarters, converging with three more along the way. Cloaked in masks and armed with heavy assault rifles, they quickly overcame what little resistance the sleeping Israelis could offer, taking eleven hostages: David Berger, Ze'ev Friedman, Joseph Gottfreund, Eliezer Halfin, Joseph Romano, Andrei Schpitzer, Amitsur Shapira, Kahat Shor, Mark Slavin, Yaakov Springer and Moshe Weinberg. Weinberg was shot in the initial struggle and Romano soon thereafter. Both would perish.
The terrorists demanded the release and safe emigration of 232 Arab radicals in Israeli control, and an additional two in German prisons. Israel's response was immediate and absolute: there would be no negotiation.
Execution deadlines shifted first by three hours, and then by five more as German authorities attempted to stay the terrorists. Wise to this, the terrorists demanded transportation to Arab-friendly Cairo. The Germans capitulated, and two helicopters transported both terrorists and hostages to nearby Fürstenfeldbruck airbase, and a waiting 727.
Two terrorists were to check the suitability of the plane, and then return to the helicopters. As they walked back across the tarmac to release the German helicopter pilots, five German snipers nearby opened fire. It was now 11 PM.
The result was chaotic and calamitous. Two Arabs near the pilots fell immediately, and a third as he fled. Three more began to return fire from the shadows of the helicopters, beyond the visual range of the snipers. A German policeman quickly succumbed to wild assault rifle salvos. The battle then entered a protracted 45 minute struggle, until a unit of German armoured cars encroached on the terrorist's position.
Threatened, a terrorist opened fire on hostages from within the first helicopter, prompting two more to emerge from the shadows. He then leapt from the aircraft, leaving a grenade in his place. All three Arabs fell to snipers above, but the subsequent explosion finished what business they had. A fourth terrorist slaughtered the remaining five hostages in the second helicopter immediately thereafter.
In the aftermath, German authorities captured and imprisoned the three surviving terrorists. This limited success was overshadowed two months later when, on October 29th, a Lufthansa jet was hijacked under the demand that the Munich killers be released - and released they were, without consultation from Israel. Speculation persists that the hijacking was a set-up designed to ease Germany's humiliating failure at Fürstenfeldbruck.
In twenty years since 1972, Israel's counter-terrorist Mossad has enacted terminal reprisal on at least eight of eleven Palestinians involved with the attack, and one that was not (Reference: Lillehammer Affair). All eleven, or pieces thereof, currently rest six feet underground. Only Mohammed Daoud Oudeh (Abu Daoud), the man who conceived the act, remains alive in Amman Jordan. He has claimed that funds for the massacre were provided by Mahmoud Abbas.   .
In a surprising display of ambivalence, IOC president Avery Brundage allowed the Games to continue after a brief remembrance service in the Olympic Stadium. The decision was criticized by many. However, despite extensive (and at times, irresponsible) press coverage of the Massacre, only a small number of athletes left the Games after the attack. In Brundage's words, "The Games must go on."
- The Israeli Response to the 1972 Munich Massacre - Includes an extensive overview of the Munich Massacre