Before the Olympics begin, take a ‘moment’ for the victims of the Munich Olympics
You probably didn't know that Israeli fencing coach Andre Spitzer, murdered during the 1972 Munich Olympics, loved sunflowers. Remember that as you read this blog because so often when we talk about victims of terror, it's hard to get a picture of what they were like when they were living, what kind of flowers they liked.
On Friday, the world will gather to watch the opening ceremonies of this summer's London Olympics.
But missing from the gathering will be a minute of silence, requested by the Israeli government, for the slain victims--11 Israelis and one German police officer--murdered by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
There will be no moment because the International Olympic Committee, a corrupt organization, rejected Israel's request for the moment of silence on the 40th anniversary of the massacre--a decision that turns my stomach.
At the same time, I applaud NBC sportscaster Bob Costas, who has pledged that when the Israeli delegation enters the stadium tonight, he will call out the committee for denying the moment of silence. Costas joins a long list of people who advocated for the moment-including President Obama, Mitt Romney, the U.S. senate, the German Budestag, the Canadian and Australian parliaments, Italian lawmakers, and some 50 members of the British Parliament.
Since the victims may not get the moment they deserve, at least not one sanctioned by the Olympic Committee, let's take a "moment" right now to remember the heroes who lost their lives that day. For some of you, this will be a reminder of what happened that day. For others, like me, not yet born during the massacre, the story bears telling for the first time.
In hosting the 1972 Munich Olympics, Germany had hoped to diminish its tarnished image 27 years after the end of WWII and erase the 1936 Berlin Olympics-billed the "Nazi Olympics" from the world's memory. The country had wanted to prove that it was a new Germany, democratic and harmonious.
But the world watched in horror as "the Olympics of serenity" quickly became dubbed "the Olympics of terror" when, on Sept. 5, 1972, the extreme Palestinian organization called "Black September" stormed inside the Israeli team's quarters of 31 Connollystrasse, and took its members captive.
The terrorists' ransom note ordered that 236 Arab political prisoners be released from prisons in Israel and elsewhere. Fearing for the state of Israel's safety, Prime Minister Golda Meir resisted the demands.
All 11 Israeli athletes and coaches and one German police officer lost their lives before the nightmare was over.
Three out of the eight terrorists lived through the crisis and never stood trial for their crimes. The bodies of the five dead terrorists were transported to Libya, where they received a hero's funeral.
For those of you who want to learn more about what happened, in addition to the well-known 2005 historical film, Munich, directed by Steven Spielberg, I recommend the small 1999 documentary, directed by Kevin Macdonald, called One Day in September, from which I drew many facts for this blog.
Here are the names of the brave men murdered that day:
David Berger, weightlifter
Anton Fliegerbauer, German police officer
Ze'ev Friedman, weightlifter
Yossef Gutfreund, wrestling referee
Eliezer Halfin, wrestler
Yossef Romano, weightlifter
Amitzur Shapira, track coach
Kehat Shorr, shooting coach
Mark Slavin, wrestler
Andre Spitzer, fencing coach
Yakov Springer, weightlifting judge
Moshe Weinberg, wrestling coach
Forty years later, let's remember these heroes-and let's also remember that Coach Spitzer loved sunflowers.