Today in History: 50th Anniversary of the Munich Massacre

Today in History: 50th Anniversary of the Munich Massacre

by M.C. Millman

On September 5, 1972, the Palestinian terrorist group "Black September", took nine Israelis hostage at the Summer Olympics in Munich, West Germany. 

Around 4:30 a.m., eight terrorists wearing tracksuits and armed with automatic rifles scaled the gate of the Olympic Village housing Israeli athletes. Two Israelis were killed in the fight early that morning, and nine hostages were taken. 

The terrorist organization demanded that Israel release 234 Palestinian and non-Arab prisoners and provide a safe passage out of Germany to the terrorist group. 

Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir refused to negotiate with the terrorists. She said, "If we should give in, then no Israeli anywhere in the world can feel that his life is safe."

Golda Meir wanted to send a special operations team to free the athletes. However, the Germans insisted on taking responsibility for their rescue. Later, the German interior minister Bruno Merk, who headed the crisis center, has denied that such an Israeli offer ever existed.

After a tense standoff lasting a day, the terrorists demanded to be transferred to Cairo to which Germany agreed. The German Police provided the helicopter in which the terrorists were to be transported to Furstenfeldbruk, a NATO airbase in Germany. Upon their arrival to the airbase, German snipers opened fire and killed 5 terrorists. The remaining 3 terrorist then blew up a the helicopter where all 9 hostages were killed.  

Zvi Zamir, the head of Mossad, went to Germany, where his recommendations for freeing the hostages were rejected. 

After returning to Israel, Zamir said, "They didn't make a minimal effort to save lives, they didn't take a minimal risk to try to save people, neither theirs nor ours." 

It is widely known that the Germans mishandled the operation and since the massacre, there have been ongoing disputes over compensatory damages. Relatives of the 11 Israeli coaches and athletes killed threatened to boycott the planned memorial on the 50th anniversary of the Munich Massacre due to "cruel German behavior". This year, on August 31, an agreement was reached ahead of the memorial, when a joint statement was released by Israeli President Isaac Herzog and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. 

The statement relayed that "an agreement has been reached for a historical inquiry, the taking of responsibility, and suitable compensation for the victim's families". The statement continued, "This agreement cannot heal the wounds, but it includes an acceptance of responsibility on Germany's part and its recognition of the terrible suffering of the victims, whom we shall commemorate next week, and of their loved ones."

Photo Credit: Alamy

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