The Germans in 1972 did not succeed in improving the bad impression of Hitler’s Olympics in 1936. After the Second World War, Munich was perceived outside of Germany as the city of Hitler’s youth, where he developed his Nazi party, and where the infamous Munich Agreement was signed in 1938. The Olympics held in 1972 were to erase these associations, as well as memories of the Olympics organized by Hitler in Berlin in 1936.
In the second week of the Olympics, the successful course came to an end. The terrorist commando of the Black September organization, a branch of the Fatah organization, seized eleven members of the Israeli Olympic expedition in the early morning of September 5. The organizers of the Olympics did not want to put up with the disruption of the games; they insisted on continuing the games even after the murder of the two hostages. Negotiations were held for the nine hostages, and the German government resolutely rejected the offered Israeli help. At midnight, the news of the successful rescue of the athletes and the killing of the kidnappers – a wish of the father of ideas – poured into the world.
The Germans were reluctant to give up their dream of a successful Olympics. Negotiations with the terrorists were led by German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher himself, who was even allowed by the kidnappers, together with the mayor of the Olympic village, Walter Tröger, to briefly visit the captives. The Germans offered the kidnappers an unlimited ransom and even their top politicians in exchange for the surviving captured Israelis, but the kidnappers refused everything except the release of 234 terrorists from Israeli prisons, and the release of the founders of the German communist terrorist organization, called the Red Army Faction, Andreas Baader and Ulrika Meinhof from the German prison. The hijackers were eventually offered a transfer, along with the nine captives, in two helicopters to a nearby airport and a flight to Egypt. The whole event was conducted in a completely dilettante manner and ended with the killing of all the hostages at the end of the day.
When the public learned of the deaths of eleven athletes the next morning, pressure to suspend the Olympics grew. The organizers countered this with an impressive ceremony at midday to honor the memory of the victims, where the president of the International Olympic Committee, American Avery Brundage, emphasized in his speech that “politics must not interfere with sport” and therefore the games must go on. Brundage (b. 1887), used the same argument in 1972 as he did in 1936 – then he was vehemently opposed to voices calling for an American boycott of the Berlin Games, and he attended Hitler’s Games as a member of the International Olympic Committee. After a few speeches, Beethoven’s Egmont (overture) was played and the competitions continued. Several athletes refused to pretend nothing had happened and left despite having a chance to win medals. The surviving Israeli athletes also left, as well as the most successful athlete of the Munich Olympics, the American Jewish swimmer Mark Spitz, who had seven gold medals in his pocket.
From the beginning, German politicians and the German police lied and even accused Israel of intransigence because it did not want to release the terrorists. When relatives of the victims blamed the German police for not protecting the athletes from terrorists, they corrected them that they were not terrorists, but fighters for the liberation of Palestine. When the relatives asked the German authorities for an account of the event, they were told that the documents were not available. For the first 20 years, all information about the course of the event was hermetically sealed. In 1992, fencer Andrei Spitzer’s widow, Ankie, appeared on German television and asked the public in German for information clarifying how her husband and other athletes had died. In response, her lawyer received material that was part of classified information from an anonymous German official, and Germany then had to confirm that an archive had been found that was allegedly not available before.
The material from 1992 contained photos and a description of the condition of the murdered. Ankie Spitzer and Ilana Romano, the widow of weightlifter Josef Romano, were allowed to see the material after promising not to talk about it publicly. They understood that Joseph, who had fought the captors, had been shot and then tortured, castrated and left to bleed to death in front of his bound comrades. The gruesome details leaked to the press only rarely and from other sources; for example, in 2015, the New York Times and a few other newspapers mentioned them. A few days ago, Ilana gave an interview to a small Italian newspaper, and when asked if all this about castration was true, she replied: “It’s true”.
Ankie and Ilana have been fighting for 50 years to get the German authorities to apologize for how laxly they handled the safety of the athletes, how dilettantishly they managed the rescue operation and, most importantly, how they withheld information for years. Recently, Germany admitted that it had made mistakes and offered the families of the victims increased compensation in exchange for their participation in a memorial ceremony on September 5 this year. The German president apologized for “Germany not giving the Israeli athletes the protection they expected and also for the lack of effort to find an explanation after what happened”. A bit euphemistic, but at least something.
It was only in 2012 that it emerged that the Germans in 1972 received a specific warning from Beirut about a planned attack a few weeks before the start of the Olympics. The Germans completely ignored the warning, which was all the more absurd because at the time communist and Arab terrorists were running rampant throughout the Western world; for example, just a few months before the Olympics, they killed 26 people at the Tel Aviv airport. The athletes were not guarded in any way in the Olympic village. Then when the abduction began, the television broadcast everything up close, so that the kidnappers could watch the movements of the people outside on the television. The politicians, who were allowed by the terrorists to visit the abductees briefly, reported falsely about the five kidnappers, and the police relied on it; it turned out there were eight of them. The Germans prepared a Boeing 727 with 16 policemen disguised as the crew of the plane, and they were supposed to eliminate the terrorists after they boarded with hostages.
The event started at night. When the helicopters carrying the terrorists arrived at the airport, all the police officers from the Boeing fled.
The snipers were misplaced at the airport and threatened each other. Moreover, they were not professionals and did not have proper weapons, were not equipped for night fighting and were not in telephone communication. Absurdly, only five police officers remained at the scene against the odds of eight kidnappers. In addition, the helicopter pilots landed quite inappropriately from the point of view of snipers. The hijackers realized that the plane was not ready for flight and a gunfight began during which the terrorists destroyed the airport lighting and had the upper hand. The German helicopter pilots managed to escape, but the bound athletes did not, even though they tried furiously to bite the ropes. When reinforcements arrived, the terrorists began shooting at the hostages and destroyed one helicopter with grenades. The athletes, some of whom had injuries and fractures from previous beatings, died mostly by gunfire, but some suffocated in the burning helicopter. Five terrorists were killed and three were detained.
As if on cue, the hijacking of Lufthansa Flight 615, two months after the Olympic massacre, forced the release of the three surviving terrorists, allowing Germany to improve relations with the Arab world for which it sought. All German political parties, as well as the German public, rejoiced that the crisis surrounding the hijacking of the plane was resolved non-violently, so that the wrath of terrorists would not turn against Germany in the future. According to reports published in 2012 in the magazine Der Spiegel, Germany then concluded an agreement with Palestinian terrorists guaranteeing that Arab terrorist attacks on German soil would cease.
Germany’s inability to behave sensibly in a state of threat and face pressures is a warning for today’s Europe as well. After all, the then incompetent Social Democratic government led by Chancellor Willi Brandt and Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher, who sought good relations with the Soviet Union while being surrounded by Russian spies, is too similar to today’s demented Social Democrats, unable to face Russian pressure and other current threats. They are still the same Germans – but today they lead all of Europe.
Regarding Munich 1972, Israel liquidated several dozen of the main organizers of the massacre in the “Wrath of God” operation. A few were pardoned and allowed to engage in future peaceful activities (I don’t know if the word “peaceful” should be in quotes or not). An example is Abu Mazen, the head of the Fatah organization, who helped finance the Munich event and is today the president of the Palestinian Authority. You simply cannot kill all terrorists, but at least their crimes should not be covered up. Shocking details of Muslim atrocities are often glossed over to “prevent the spread of needless hatred and perpetuate the cycle of violence,” according to peacemakers, but the result is a suppression of the truth about Islam. After all, the victims of Muslim sadism do not turn the wheels of violence. The truth of Islam is justice for the dead and warning for the living.