On this date 11 members of the Israeli Olympic delegation and a German policeman died during a failed attempt to end the hostage standoff and rescue nine athletes being held in two helicopters at the NATO Fürstenfeldbruck airbase. Five of the eight PLO terrorists also died during the failed rescue mission with three survivors being captured..
The (West) Germans were extremely sensitive to that history and when the Games opened on August 26, 1972 they wanted to make certain they took every opportunity to present an optimistic, happy, non-militaristic and democratic Germany to the world.
But there were stormy political clouds intruding on that sunny picture the Germans planned to present to the world. The IOC denied a request by the Palestine Liberation Organization for it to send a Palestinian team to the Olympic Games, and in response chatter started that retaliation would take place during the Games. There were rumblings and intelligence warnings before the Munich Games started that were unfortunately ignored that some kind of terrorist attack would take place as late as September 2.
In the early morning hours of September 5 eight members of the PLO terrorist group Black September scaled the two meter (six foot) fence surrounding the Olympic Village dressed in track suits, made it to the apartment building at 31 Connollystrasse housing the Israeli Olympic team, broke in, killed Youssef Romano and Moshe Weinberg, two members of the team that tried to resist the apartment invasion and took the remaining nine members hostage. Fortunately the female members of the Israeli team were housed in a separate section of the Olympic Village, and the team members participating in the sailing events were 400 km away in Kiel.
It triggered an almost 18 hour standoff between the Black September terrorists and German authorities in which the PLO terrorists demanded the release of over 200 of their comrades in Israeli jails, Germany release the notorious Red Army Faction founders Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof and be given safe passage out of the country in exchange for the Israeli hostages.
Later that evening the terrorists and their hostages were helicoptered to Fürstenfeldbruck airbase to ostensibly be transported by air to Egypt but in reality were flying into a planned German ambush that went horribly wrong.
A firefight ensued with Anton Fliegerbauer, one of the undermanned German police team members snipers conducting the rescue operation being shot and killed in the control tower along with five of the eight Black September terrorists.
When the remaining terrorists saw armored cars being deployed they realized their chances of holding out were over. They shot four of the Israeli hostages on one of the helicopters and then detonated a grenade that resulted in their incineration. The five remaining Israeli hostages on the second helicopter were then machine-gunned by another terrorist.
In the wake of the attack and amongst mounting international pressure to do so, the IOC suspended Olympic competition for 24 hours and a memorial service was held September 6 in the Olympic stadium for the slain athletes. The three captured surviving terrorists were later released by the German government October 29 in response to demands by terrorists who hijacked Lufthansa Flight 615.
Two of the released Munich Massacre terrorists were later allegedly assassinated by Israeli Mossad agents and Jamal Al-Gashey, the surviving Munich Black September attacker is alleged to be still in hiding somewhere in Syria or an unnamed North African nation.
The Israelis in addition to the Mossad unleashed an anti-terrorism campaign called Operation Act of God with the goal of assassinating individuals in the PLO either directly or indirectly involved with the 1972 Munich Massacre.
September 5, 1972 still remains 40 years later one of the most horrific days ever for the modern Olympic movement. I agree with many people including the widows of those 11 Israeli athletes there should have been a moment of silence at the London Games opening ceremony.
Andre Spitzer, Kehat Shorr, Youssef Gutfreund, Amitzur Shapira, Yakov Springer, David Berger, Ze'ev Friedman, Mark Slavin and Eliezer Halfin, those of us who remember what happened on that horrific September 5 day, the world shall never forget you.
Youssef Romano and Moshe Weinberg, we'll never forget your heroism in sacrificing your lives and giving enough of a warning to your teammates that it allowed several members of your delegation to escape.
German police officer Anton Fliegerbauer also gave his life in order to rescue the Israeli Olympians.
And shame on you IOC for not taking the time during these just concluded games to remember the September 5 attack and all the people who died in it.