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More Israeli hostages killed in Munich

More Israeli hostages killed in Munich


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At Furstenfeldbruck air base near Munich, an attempt by West German police to rescue nine Israeli Olympic team members held hostage by Palestinian terrorists ends in disaster. In an extended firefight that began at 11 p.m. and lasted until 1:30 a.m., all nine Israeli hostages were killed, as were five terrorists and one German policeman. Three terrorists were wounded and captured alive. The hostage crisis began early the previous morning when Palestinian terrorists from the Black September organization stormed the Israeli quarters in the Olympic Village in Munich, killing two team members and taking nine others hostage.

The 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, West Germany, were publicized by organizers as the “Games of Peace and Joy.” West Germans were intent on erasing the memory of the last Olympics held in Germany: the 1936 Berlin Olympics that Adolf Hitler exploited as a vehicle of Nazi propaganda. Police in Munich–the birthplace of Nazism–kept a low profile during the 1972 Games, and organizers chose lax security over risking comparison with the Gestapo police tactics of Hitler’s Germany.

So just before dawn on September 5, 1972–the eleventh day of the XX Olympiad–evidently no one thought it strange that five Arab men in track suits were climbing over a six-and-a-half-foot fence to gain access to the Olympic Village. The village, after all, had a curfew, and many other Olympic athletes had employed fence climbing as a means of enjoying a late night out on the town. In fact, some Americans returning from a bar joined them in climbing the fence. A handful of other witnesses hardly gave the five men a second glance, and the intruders proceeded unmolested to the three-story building where the small Israeli delegation to the Munich Games was staying.

These five men, of course, were not Olympic athletes but members of Black September, an extremist Palestinian group formed in 1971. In their athletic bags they carried automatic rifles and other weapons. They were joined in the village by three other terrorists, two of whom were employed within the Olympic compound.

Shortly before 5 a.m., the guerrillas forced their way into one of the Israeli apartments, taking five hostages. When the Palestinians entered another apartment, Israeli wrestling coach Moshe Weinberg struggled with them. He was shot to death after knocking two of his attackers down. Weightlifter Yossef Romano then attacked them with a kitchen knife, and he succeeded in injuring one terrorist before he was fatally shot. Some Israelis managed narrowly to escape through a back entrance, but a total of nine were seized. Four of the hostages were athletes–two weightlifters and two wrestlers–and five were coaches. One of the wrestlers, David Berger, had dual American-Israeli citizenship and lived in Ohio before qualifying for the Israeli Olympic team.

Around 8 a.m., the attackers announced themselves as Palestinians and issued their demands: the release of 234 Arab and German prisoners held in Israel and West Germany, and safe passage with their hostages to Cairo. The German prisoners requested to be released included Ulrike Meinhof and Andreas Baader, founders of the Marxist terrorist group known as the Red Army Faction. If the Palestinians’ demands were not met, the nine hostages would be killed. Tense negotiations stretched on throughout the day, complicated by Israel’s refusal to negotiate with these or any terrorists. The German police considered raiding the Israeli compound but later abandoned the plan out of fear for the safety of the hostages and other athletes in the Olympic Village. Ten West German Olympic organizers offered themselves as hostages in exchange for the Israeli team members, but the offer was declined.

Finally, in the early evening, the terrorists agreed to a plan in which they were to be taken by helicopter to the NATO air base at Fürstenfeldbruck and then flown by airliner to Cairo with the hostages. The terrorists believed they would be met in Egypt by the released Arab and German prisoners. Around 10 p.m., the terrorists and hostages emerged from the building; the Israelis bound together and blindfolded. They took a bus to a makeshift helicopter pad and were flown the 12 miles to Fürstenfeldbruck.

German authorities feared that the Israelis faced certain death upon their arrival in the Middle East. Egypt had denied the request to allow the plane to land in Cairo, and Israel would never release the Arab prisoners in question. Israel had a crack military task force ready to raid the plane wherever it landed, but the German police planned their own ambush. In the course of the transfer, however, the Germans discovered that there were eight terrorists instead of the expected five. They had not assigned enough marksmen to kill the terrorists and, moreover, lacked the gear, such as walkie-talkies and bulletproof vests, necessary to carry out such an ambush effectively. Nevertheless, shortly before 11 p.m., the sharpshooters opened fire. Their shots were off mark in the dark, and the terrorists fired back.

Toward the end of the firefight, which lasted more than two hours, the Palestinians gunned down four of the hostages in one of the helicopters and tossed a grenade into another helicopter holding the other five–killing them all. At approximately 1:30 a.m., the last terrorist still resisting was killed. All eight Palestinians were shot during the gun battle–five fatally–and a German policeman was killed. One of the helicopter pilots was also seriously injured.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, the Munich Games were temporarily suspended. A memorial service for the 11 slain Israelis drew 80,000 mourners to the Olympic stadium on September 6. International Olympic Committee President Avery Brundage, who was widely criticized for failing to suspend the Games during the hostage crisis, was further criticized for his decision to resume them on the afternoon of September 6. On September 11, closing ceremonies ended the XX Olympiad.

On October 29, Palestinian terrorists hijacked a Lufthansa jet in Beirut and ordered it flown to Munich, where the three surviving Munich terrorists were being held. Germany agreed to turn the terrorists over in exchange for the release of the airliner’s passengers and crew, which was carried out after the jet landed in Libya. The Black September terrorists, however, did not enjoy their freedom for long. Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, formed an assassination squad that eventually killed two of the three terrorists along with at least six others believed to have been involved in the attack on the Israeli Olympic compound. One of the Munich terrorists, Jamal al-Gashey, survives in hiding.

READ MORE: When World Events Disrupted the Olympics


The Munich Massacre – 1972

When we talk about the history of Mossad (Intelligence unit of Israel), the Munich Massacre holds significant importance. The incident led to one of the most distinct, courageous, and clinical operations in the history of the modern world – Operation Wrath of God.

On 5 th September 1972, during the ongoing Olympics, a group of Palestinian terrorists entered the Olympics village and took a few of the Israel athletes and coaching staff as hostages. What ensued later is etched into history as one of the most unfortunate incidents.


Attack on the Olympic Village

For more than a week, the Games unfolded without incident. The day of terror began at 4:30 am on September 5, 1972, when eight Palestinian militants affiliated with Black September—a militant offshoot of the Palestinian group Fatah—scaled a fence surrounding the Olympic Village in Munich. Disguised as athletes and using stolen keys, they forced their way into the quarters of the Israeli Olympic team at 31 Connollystrasse. As they attempted to enter Apartment 1, they were confronted by Yossef Gutfreund, a wrestling referee, and Moshe Weinberg, a wrestling coach. Weinberg was shot while fighting with the attackers, who forced him at gunpoint to lead them to the rooms of the remaining Israeli coaches and athletes. It has been proposed that Weinberg led the attackers past Apartment 2—which was also being used by the Israeli team—because he believed that the wrestlers and weightlifters in Apartment 3 would be better able to fight back. However, Black September had detailed plans of the Olympic Village and the dispositions of the Israeli athletes. Shaul Ladany, a race walker who survived the attack after escaping from Apartment 2, suggested that it was much more likely that his room was bypassed because he was housed with members of the Israeli shooting team. The terrorists had struggled to subdue the unarmed men in Apartment 1 it is unlikely that they had wished to engage in a close-quarters gun battle with world-class marksmen in the opening minutes of their operation.

In Apartment 3 the terrorists gathered more hostages and forced them back to Apartment 1. Wrestler Gad Tsabari broke from the group and dashed down a flight of stairs toward an underground parking garage, and Weinberg took advantage of the confusion to again fight the attackers. Weinberg had nearly gained control of a terrorist’s gun when he was shot and killed. Despite being on crutches due to an injury during competition, Yossef Romano, a weightlifter, also made an attempt to disarm one of the terrorists. Romano was killed and his mutilated body was left on the floor of Apartment 1 as a warning. While two Israelis lay dead in the Olympic Village and nine others were being held hostage, International Olympic Committee (IOC) chairman Avery Brundage insisted that the games continue. The terrorists demanded the liberation of more than 200 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons, the release of Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof of the Red Army Faction from German prisons, and the provision of an airplane to fly them to a safe destination in the Middle East. While negotiations were ongoing, a planned rescue attempt had to be called off when it was realized that actions of West German police were being broadcast live to nearly 1 billion people around the world and to the many televisions throughout the Olympic Village. At about 10:00 pm on September 5, believing they had reached an agreement, the terrorists led their bound and blindfolded hostages from their quarters into buses that transported them to waiting helicopters.


Long-Hidden Details Reveal Cruelty of 1972 Munich Attackers

In September 1992, two Israeli widows went to the home of their lawyer. When the women arrived, the lawyer told them that he had received some photographs during his recent trip to Munich but that he did not think they should view them. When they insisted, he urged them to let him call a doctor who could be present when they did.

Ilana Romano and Ankie Spitzer, whose husbands were among the Israeli athletes held hostage and killed by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, rejected that request, too. They looked at the pictures that for decades they had been told did not exist, and then agreed never to discuss them publicly.

The attack at the Olympic Village stands as one of sports’ most horrifying episodes. The eight terrorists, representing a branch of the Palestine Liberation Organization, breached the apartments where the Israeli athletes were staying before dawn on Sept. 5, 1972. That began an international nightmare that lasted more than 20 hours and ended with a disastrous failed rescue attempt.

The treatment of the hostages has long been a subject of speculation, but a more vivid — and disturbing — account of the attack is emerging. For the first time, Ms. Romano, Ms. Spitzer and other victims’ family members are choosing to speak openly about documentation previously unknown to the public in an effort to get their loved ones the recognition they believe is deserved.

Among the most jarring details are these: The Israeli Olympic team members were beaten and, in at least one case, castrated.

“What they did is that they cut off his genitals through his underwear and abused him,” Ms. Romano said of her husband, Yossef. Her voice rose.

Image

“Can you imagine the nine others sitting around tied up?” she continued, speaking in Hebrew through a translator. “They watched this.”

Ms. Romano and Ms. Spitzer, whose husband, Andre, was a fencing coach at the Munich Games and died in the attack, first described the extent of the cruelty during an interview for the coming film “Munich 1972 & Beyond,” a documentary that chronicles the long fight by families of the victims to gain public and official acknowledgment for their loved ones. The film is expected to be released early next year.

In subsequent interviews with The New York Times, Ms. Spitzer explained that she and the family members of the other victims only learned the details of how the victims were treated 20 years after the tragedy, when German authorities released hundreds of pages of reports they previously denied existed.

Ms. Spitzer said that she and Ms. Romano, as representatives of the group of family members, first saw the documents on that Saturday night in 1992. One of Ms. Romano’s daughters was to be married just three days later, but Ms. Romano never considered delaying the viewing she had been waiting for so long.

The photographs were “as bad I could have imagined,” Ms. Romano said. (The New York Times reviewed the photographs but has chosen not to publish them because of their graphic nature.)

Mr. Romano, a champion weight lifter, was shot when he tried to overpower the terrorists early in the attack. He was then left to die in front of the other hostages and castrated. Other hostages were beaten and sustained serious injuries, including broken bones, Ms. Spitzer said. Mr. Romano and another hostage died in the Olympic Village the other nine were killed during a failed rescue attempt after they were moved with their captors to a nearby airport.

It was not clear if the mutilation of Mr. Romano occurred before or after he died, Ms. Spitzer said, though Ms. Romano said she believed it happened afterward.

“The terrorists always claimed that they didn’t come to murder anyone — they only wanted to free their friends from prison in Israel,” Ms. Spitzer said. “They said it was only because of the botched-up rescue operation at the airport that they killed the rest of the hostages, but it’s not true. They came to hurt people. They came to kill.”

For much of the past two decades, Ms. Spitzer, Ms. Romano and Pinchas Zeltzer, the lawyer, mostly kept the grisly details to themselves, though at least one prominent report about the images surfaced. When Ms. Romano returned home that first night, she told her daughters the pictures were “difficult” but said they should not ask her more about them. Her daughters agreed.

At various points over the next 20 years, Ms. Romano said, she did make occasional references to the mutilation of her husband, but she always kept the photographs of the episode hidden.

According to Ms. Spitzer, confusion about what had happened to the victims existed from the beginning. The bodies of the victims were identified by family or friends in Munich — Ms. Romano said an uncle of her husband identified his corpse but was shown only his face — and, as per Jewish law, burials were held almost immediately after the bodies were flown back to Israel.

Since much of the attention from Israeli officials after the attacks focused on security breaches and mistakes by German and Olympic officials that had allowed the terrorists to strike, consideration of the plight of the dead victims had been a priority only to their families.

“We asked for more details, but we were told, over and over, there was nothing,” Ms. Spitzer said.

In 1992, after doing an interview with a German television station regarding the 20th anniversary of the attack in which she expressed frustration about not knowing exactly what happened to her husband and his teammates, Ms. Spitzer was contacted by a man who said he worked for a German government agency with access to reams of records about the attack.

Initially, Ms. Spitzer said, the man, who remained anonymous, sent her about 80 pages of police reports and other documents. With those documents, Mr. Zeltzer, the lawyer, and Ms. Spitzer pressured the German government into releasing the rest of the file, which included the photographs.

After receiving the file, the victims’ families sued the German government, the Bavarian regional government and the city of Munich for a “deficient security concept” and the “serious mistakes” that doomed the rescue mission, according to the complaint. The suit was ultimately dismissed because of statute-of-limitations regulations.

Nonetheless, the families have largely focused their efforts on ensuring a place for remembrance of their loved ones in the fabric of the Olympic movement. After decades of lobbying, the victims’ families were heartened when the International Olympic Committee, led by a new president, Thomas Bach, agreed this year to help finance a permanent memorial in Munich. There are also plans to remember the Munich victims at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.

At the moment, the victims will be included in a moment of remembrance for all athletes who have died at the Olympics Ms. Spitzer and Ms. Romano continue to press for the Israeli athletes from Munich to be remembered apart from athletes who died in competition, arguing that their deaths were the result of unprecedented evil.

“The moment I saw the photos, it was very painful,” Ms. Romano said. “I remembered until that day Yossef as a young man with a big smile. I remembered his dimples until that moment.”

She hesitated. “At that moment, it erased the entire Yossi that I knew,” she said.


Remembering the Munich Massacre

The Munich Massacre was forty-seven years ago today, when Palestinian terrorists — members of the group “Black September” — climbed the fence surrounding the Olympic Village in Munich, Germany, site of the summer Olympics that year.

The terrorists took 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team hostage, demanding the release of 200 Arab prisoners and safe passage out of Germany in exchange for the athletes’ lives. Authorities took the terrorists and nine remaining hostages (two had been killed trying to defend themselves in the initial attack) to a NATO air base in Fürstenfeldbruck near Munich, and promised them safe passage to Cairo.

German sharpshooters were waiting at the air base. In the bitter gun battle that ensued, terrorists murdered the remaining Israeli athletes.

The American sportscaster Jim McKay, in Germany to cover the games, stayed on the air for hours as the drama unfolded on live television. In perhaps one of the most heartrending moments in broadcast journalism, McKay later soberly announced to viewers, “You know, when I was a kid, my father used to say ‘Our greatest hopes and our worst fears are seldom realized.’ Our worst fears have been realized tonight. They’ve now said that there were eleven hostages. Two were killed in their rooms yesterday morning, nine were killed at the airport tonight. They’re all gone.”

The Munich Massacre was yet another horrific example of implacable hatred in action: hatred that fanatical terrorists hold for Jews and Israelis. Whenever you hear someone decrying and scorning Israel’s attempts to defend her people both at home and abroad, think of the men pictured above, the victims of Munich, who had come to the games like athletes from around the world only to represent and bring pride to their their nation in fair competition. And pray for an end to the despicable anti-Semitic hatred that led to their deaths, and that terrorists who perpetrate such acts will be brought to justice.


A few years ago, I traveled from Israel to the U.S. with a layover in Munich. I had never been to Germany.

Germany, and its history as concerns Jews, is not only not of interest to me, but, as an Orthodox Jew, the idea of being there makes me uncomfortable. Nevertheless, the best itinerary was through Munich. I rationalized that I wasn't leaving the airport.

After landing, I made my way toward the connecting flight's gate. I was surprised that, although I hadn't left the airport, there was additional security for passengers on connecting flights. I understand now that this is not uncommon, that no airport that serves as a hub for connecting international flights can necessarily rely on the originating airport's security.

However, I was arriving from Israel, the airport and country with arguably the most sophisticated level of security in the world. Bother me with scanning my carry-on? Take away items that were fine to fly with in Tel Aviv? How annoying and unsophisticated. It felt that rather than being effective in catching terrorists, it was just a systematic delay to keep me from getting to my connecting flight.

I kept thinking, If they had this level of security and cared enough in 1972, people would only know Munich as an airport hub, not as the site of one of the world's most egregious and horrific terror attacks.

To me, Munich is and always will be defined by the Palestinian Arab hostage-taking, terror attack, botched rescue and murder of 11 Israeli athletes 48 years ago this week at the Munich Olympics. For a country known for its precision, Germany's lack of preparedness was particularly egregious. It is unimaginable how a country that, three decades before, had made genocide systematic, was unable&mdashor unwilling&mdashto protect the athletes.

The 1972 Olympics were used to rehabilitate Germany's image as a kinder and gentler Germany. Security was largely unobtrusive, undercover and unarmed, mostly prepared to deal with unrest in the form of ticket scalpers and public disorder. The head of the Israeli delegation, Shmuel Lalkin, expressed concern about the Israeli team's accommodations on the ground floor of a small building close to a gate, making them particularly vulnerable. German authorities supposedly promised extra security.

The terrorists' carefully planned attack began in the early morning of Sept. 5. As the athletes slept, eight Palestinian Arab terrorists wearing track suits scaled a two-meter fence to sneak into the Olympic Village, carrying duffel bags loaded with assault rifles, pistols and grenades.

After murdering 2 of the 11 Israeli athletes immediately, they took the nine additional members of the Israeli Olympic team hostage, with demands of safe passage out of Germany and that Israel release 234 Palestinian Arab prisoners in Israel jails, as well as the German-held founders of the Red Army Faction, Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof.

Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir appealed to other countries to "save our citizens and condemn the unspeakable criminal acts committed," also noting, "if we should give in, no Israeli anywhere in the world shall feel that his life is safe . it's blackmail of the worst kind."

Munich is a long, bungled and murky story. Allegations of poor planning, refusing Israel's assistance, incompetence in the rescue and even having advanced knowledge which they covered up, all plague Germany today. Adding to perception of incompetence was a sense of German indifference that the hostages/victims were Jews. This perception increased by the immediate release of the bodies of the dead terrorists, and of the survivors two months later&mdashto a heroes' welcome in Libya.

The World Watching

In Munich, the games and athletes carried on as normal, oblivious to or indifferent about the attack taking place nearby. The games continued until pressure on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) forced a suspension some 12 hours after the first athlete had been murdered.

Twelve hours after the attack began, German police with no experience in hostage rescue were dispatched to the Olympic Village. Stupidly, their presence was filmed and broadcast on live television, enabling the terrorists to watch the police prepare to attack.

German negotiators demanded direct contact with the hostages to show that the Israelis were alive. Fencing coach Andre Spitzer, who spoke fluent German, and shooting coach Kehat Shorr, the senior member of the Israeli delegation, spoke briefly with German officials from a second-floor window. When Spitzer attempted to answer a question, he was clubbed with the butt of a rifle, also filmed on live television, and dragged from the window.

While all this was happening, news reports indicated that the hostages were alive, and that the terrorists had been killed. American broadcaster Jim McKay was reporting live when he received confirmation of the massacre: "We just got the final word . you know, when I was a kid, my father used to say, 'Our greatest hopes and our worst fears are seldom realized.' Our worst fears have been realized tonight. They've now said that there were 11 hostages. Two were killed in their rooms yesterday morning nine were killed at the airport tonight. They're all gone."

The Aftermath

Following a Sept. 6 memorial that was criticized for sparse reference to the Israeli victims, the remaining Israeli athletes left Germany. Jewish athletes from other counties also left or were provided extra security.

For decades, families of some victims appealed to the IOC to establish a permanent memorial. For decades, the IOC declined, worried that a memorial to the victims could "alienate other members of the Olympic community," according to the BBC.

The IOC rejected an international campaign in support of a minute of silence at the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics in memory of the Israeli victims on the massacre's 40th anniversary. Finally, the IOC conceded, honoring the Israeli victims before the 2016 Rio games.

Israel was well accustomed to war and terror. Its response was particularly resolute. Citing justice and that Israelis would not be safe anywhere, Golda Meir authorized Operation Grapes of Wrath, and the Mossad began to track down and kill those responsible for the Munich massacre.

Munich Today

Years later, one of the masterminds who escaped justice, Abu Daoud, wrote that funding for the Munich attack was provided by Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority President since 2005. Had Israel known about that then, it's possible Abbas would also have been eliminated along with the other masterminds. Now, he's president of an entity next to Israel that still supports terror.

The ghosts of Munich have also haunted U.S. politics. Today, a candidate for Congress, Ammar Campa-Najjar, is the grandson of Muhammad Yusuf al-Najjar, a mastermind of the Munich terrorist attack. Though he repudiates his grandfather's actions, other Campa-Najjar statements have raised questions over how true that is.

Remembering the Victims

It's inappropriate to write of the victims and not mention their names. Each led a full life and left behind families and legacies that should not be forgotten, even five decades later: David Berger, Zeev Friedman, Yosef Gutfreund, Eliezer Halfin, Yossef Romano, Amitzur Shapira, Kehat Shorr, Mark Slavin, Andre Spitzer, Yakov Springer and Moshe Weinberg.

In their memory, the Genesis 123 Foundation will be holding a webinar on Sept. 9 with two current Israeli Olympians and the widow of Andre Spitzer. For information or to register please visit this page.

Jonathan Feldstein was born and educated in the U.S. and immigrated to Israel in 2004. He is married and the father of six. Throughout his life and career, he has become a respected bridge between Jews and Christians and serves as president of the Genesis 123 Foundation. He writes regularly on major Christian websites about Israel and shares experiences of living as an Orthodox Jew in Israel. He can be reached at [email protected]

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David Mark Berger was born in Cleveland, Ohio on May 24, 1944. His mother was Dorothy Berger, (née Davidson), and his father was Benjamin Berger, who was a well known physician. A high school honors student as well as an athlete, Berger graduated from Shaker Heights High School in 1962. He attended Tulane University in New Orleans from 1962 to 1966 where he was an honors student. While studying at Tulane, he continued weightlifting training at the New Orleans Athletic Club. As a junior at Tulane, he won the NCAA weightlifting title in the 148-pound class. Berger earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from Tulane in 1966. He went on to enroll in a combined MBA-law degree program at Columbia University in New York, from which he graduated in 1969. While working toward his degrees, Berger continued to devote time to weightlifting, training at the McBurney YMCA in Midtown Manhattan. During his time in New York, Berger competed in the middleweight division. In 1968, competing as a middleweight, he finished fourth in the U.S. Olympic trials. His father, Benjamin, was once quoted as saying, "I used to tell him ‘You may not be the best weightlifter in the world, but you’re certainly the smartest!’"

After winning a gold medal in the middleweight weight-lifting contest in the 1969 Maccabiah Games, Berger emigrated to Israel, intending to open a law office in Tel Aviv after completing his compulsory military service. Berger continued competing in weightlifting, but moved up in body weight to the lightheavy class. He won a silver medal at the 1971 Asian Weightlifting Championships, and achieved a long time dream when he was chosen to represent Israel as a member of the 1972 Israeli Olympic team. In late August of that year, Berger flew to Munich with his teammates. On September 2, 1972, Berger competed, but was eliminated in an early round.

Early on the morning of September 5, 1972, Palestinian terrorists took Berger and his five roommates hostage, after having earlier broken into the Olympic Village and seized six officials in another apartment as well as wounding wrestling coach Moshe Weinberg in the face. While the athletes were being moved to the first apartment, Weinberg grappled with the intruders, allowing flyweight wrestler Gad Tsobari to escape but resulting in Weinberg’s death by gunfire. As the remaining hostages and terrorists entered the officials’ apartment, weightlifter Yossef Romano also attempted to overpower the intruders. Romano was cut nearly in half by automatic fire (his corpse was left all day at the feet of the hostages, who were tied to beds), and Berger was shot in his left shoulder, a wound seen by German officials later in the day. It is believed that Berger, being physically one of the largest of the hostages, was also beaten in order to intimidate the other hostages.

After all-day negotiations, the terrorists and their tied-up hostages were transferred from the Olympic Village via helicopter to Fürstenfeldbruck airbase outside of Munich, where the terrorists believed they would be flown to a friendly Arab nation. Instead, the German border guards and Munich police attempted to ambush the terrorists and free the hostages. After a two-hour gunfight, one of the terrorists turned on the helicopter in which Berger was sitting and sprayed it with machine-gun fire. The other three hostages in the helicopter were killed instantly, but somehow Berger only received two non-lethal wounds in his legs. However, the terrorist then detonated a hand grenade inside the helicopter, causing a huge explosion and fire. An autopsy found that Berger had died of smoke inhalation. The five hostages in the other helicopter were all shot to death by another terrorist.

While the 10 other Israeli Olympians were flown to and buried in Israel, David Berger's body was returned to the United States on an Air Force jet personally ordered by President Richard Nixon. Berger is buried at the Mayfield Cemetery in his hometown of Cleveland. [1]


City's Hostage Unit Had Genesis in Munich

Five‐year‐old Avril Letticia Kinsler is alive today partly because of the concern of a high police officer two years ago over the killing of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympic games.

The girl, who had been held hostage by a former mental patient for more thin 30 hours in a South Jamaica, Queens, apartment, was pulled to safety by the head of the Police Department hostage ‐ negotiation unit.

The unit was first conceived by Inspector — now Assistant Chief — Simon Eisdorfer, who realized that the Munich tragedy, in which Arab terrorists held the Israelis hostage before killing them, could easily happen in New York. He realized, too, that the Police Department had no one specifically trained to handle such situations.

What's more, the Munich episode followed by only a few weeks a bank holdup in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn in which two gunmen held nine bank employes and customers hostage for hours before one of the two was killed in an abortive escape attempt.

Nor were these two incidents isolated cases. There were more than, 120 police actions involving hostages in New York City in 1970 and more than 300 in 1973.

Prompted by Chief Eisdorfer's concern, the Police Department's emergency service began a course in hostage ne gotiations at its training center at Floyd Bennett Field.

Today, the hostage unit, headed by Lieut. Francis A. Bolz Jr., consists of 68 detectives.

Stability Required

Each member of the unit was picked for emotional stability and for special skills or interests that might make him particularly valuable in dealing with trapped criminals.

Detective Rae Nicolich, the first woman member of the unit, said yesterday: “We have to qualify physically, too. You can't have someone with high blood pressure passing out at is tense moment.”

Detective Nicolich, whose permanent post is with the missing persons bureau at Police Headquarters, has been lulled on three hostage incidents but all of them were resolved before she arrived.

The unit includes men and women of almost every ethnic background in the city. “If the suspect wants to talk Polish to someone, we had better have someone who can speak Polish,” said Deputy Inspector Vincenzo Chisari of the major crime section, under which the hostage‐riegotiation unit operates. And the unit does have someone who speaks Polish.

The first successful use of the tactics devised for and by the hostage unit came last year during the 47‐hour siege of a sporting goods store in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. “It's true, a police officer was killed in the initial confrontation,” Inspector Chisari said, “but that was before the hostage situation had developed.”

“Eventually, a dozen hostages escaped from the store and four gunmen surrendered.

A Turning Point

Former Police Commissioner Donald F. Cawley later said privately that the Williamsburg incident marked a turning point in the Police Department's handling of hostage situations. Had the waiting technique failed then, he said, it was unlikely that it would have continued to be department policy.

The goal of the hostage unit is to save lives—of the hostages, the suspects and the police. And the basic tactics are confinement and constant persuasion.

“If they are confined,” said Detective Nicolich, “time is on our side. We can work in shifts they can't We can wait them out.”

The members of the hostage unit on the scene of the long siege in Queens that ended yesterday showed how almost constant contact with the suspect paid off. Lieutenant Bolz was able to rescue the little girl only after talking to the suspect, Floyd Steele, for hours and apparently lulling him into dropping his guard.

Except for Lieutenant Bolz, none of the members of the hostage unit is attached to it permanently. Like Detective Nicolich, all have other full‐time duties. “Even so, she said, we like to get together informally, socially, and discuss the job. There is a great deal of camaraderie in the group.”

The unit coordinates its activities with other law‐enforcement agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Police officials from all over the United States have taken the hostage unit's course.

One of the principal instructors is Detective Harvey Schlossberg, the Police Department's psychologist who earned his Ph.D. while serving as a traffic patrolman.

Dr. Schlossberg has pioneered in the study of hostage situations, discovering among other things that the classic cinema climax when the suspects wife or priest arrives at the scene and convinces him to give up, can be disastrous.

In reality, Dr. Schlossberg believes, these close associates often trigger violence in a psychotic. In two recent out‐ofstate hostage cases, the men demanded to see their wives. When the wives arrived at the scene, however, the men killed their hostages and, finally, themselves.


More Israeli hostages killed in Munich - Sep 06, 1972 - HISTORY.com

TSgt Joe C.

At Furstenfeldbruck air base near Munich, an attempt by West German police to rescue nine Israeli Olympic team members held hostage by Palestinian terrorists ends in disaster. In an extended firefight that began at 11 p.m. and lasted until 1:30 a.m., all nine Israeli hostages were killed, as were five terrorists and one German policeman. Three terrorists were wounded and captured alive. The hostage crisis began early the previous morning when Palestinian terrorists from the Black September organization stormed the Israeli quarters in the Olympic Village in Munich, killing two team members and taking nine others hostage.

The 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, West Germany, were publicized by organizers as the “Games of Peace and Joy.” West Germans were intent on erasing the memory of the last Olympics held in Germany: the 1936 Berlin Olympics that Adolf Hitler exploited as a vehicle of Nazi propaganda. Police in Munich–the birthplace of Nazism–kept a low profile during the 1972 Games, and organizers chose lax security over risking comparison with the Gestapo police tactics of Hitler’s Germany.

So just before dawn on September 5, 1972–the eleventh day of the XX Olympiad–evidently no one thought it strange that five Arab men in track suits were climbing over a six-and-a-half-foot fence to gain access to the Olympic Village. The village, after all, had a curfew, and many other Olympic athletes had employed fence climbing as a means of enjoying a late night out on the town. In fact, some Americans returning from a bar joined them in climbing the fence. A handful of other witnesses hardly gave the five men a second glance, and the intruders proceeded unmolested to the three-story building where the small Israeli delegation to the Munich Games was staying.

These five men, of course, were not Olympic athletes but members of Black September, an extremist Palestinian group formed in 1971. In their athletic bags they carried automatic rifles and other weapons. They were joined in the village by three other terrorists, two of whom were employed within the Olympic compound.

Shortly before 5 a.m., the guerrillas forced their way into one of the Israeli apartments, taking five hostages. When the Palestinians entered another apartment, Israeli wrestling coach Moshe Weinberg struggled with them. He was shot to death after knocking two of his attackers down. Weightlifter Yossef Romano then attacked them with a kitchen knife, and he succeeded in injuring one terrorist before he was fatally shot. Some Israelis managed narrowly to escape through a back entrance, but a total of nine were seized. Four of the hostages were athletes–two weightlifters and two wrestlers–and five were coaches. One of the wrestlers, David Berger, had dual American-Israeli citizenship and lived in Ohio before qualifying for the Israeli Olympic team.

Around 8 a.m., the attackers announced themselves as Palestinians and issued their demands: the release of 234 Arab and German prisoners held in Israel and West Germany, and safe passage with their hostages to Cairo. The German prisoners requested to be released included Ulrike Meinhof and Andreas Baader, founders of the Marxist terrorist group known as the Red Army Faction. If the Palestinians’ demands were not met, the nine hostages would be killed. Tense negotiations stretched on throughout the day, complicated by Israel’s refusal to negotiate with these or any terrorists. The German police considered raiding the Israeli compound but later abandoned the plan out of fear for the safety of the hostages and other athletes in the Olympic Village. Ten West German Olympic organizers offered themselves as hostages in exchange for the Israeli team members, but the offer was declined.

Finally, in the early evening, the terrorists agreed to a plan in which they were to be taken by helicopter to the NATO air base at FÜrstenfeldbruck and then flown by airliner to Cairo with the hostages. The terrorists believed they would be met in Egypt by the released Arab and German prisoners. Around 10 p.m., the terrorists and hostages emerged from the building the Israelis bound together and blindfolded. They took a bus to a makeshift helicopter pad and were flown the 12 miles to FÜrstenfeldbruck.

German authorities feared that the Israelis faced certain death upon their arrival in the Middle East. Egypt had denied the request to allow the plane to land in Cairo, and Israel would never release the Arab prisoners in question. Israel had a crack military task force ready to raid the plane wherever it landed, but the German police planned their own ambush. In the course of the transfer, however, the Germans discovered that there were eight terrorists instead of the expected five. They had not assigned enough marksmen to kill the terrorists and, moreover, lacked the gear, such as walkie-talkies and bulletproof vests, necessary to carry out such an ambush effectively. Nevertheless, shortly before 11 p.m., the sharpshooters opened fire. Their shots were off mark in the dark, and the terrorists fired back.

Toward the end of the firefight, which lasted more than two hours, the Palestinians gunned down four of the hostages in one of the helicopters and tossed a grenade into another helicopter holding the other five–killing them all. At approximately 1:30 a.m., the last terrorist still resisting was killed. All eight Palestinians were shot during the gun battle–five fatally–and a German policeman was killed. One of the helicopter pilots was also seriously injured.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, the Munich Games were temporarily suspended. A memorial service for the 11 slain Israelis drew 80,000 mourners to the Olympic stadium on September 6. International Olympic Committee President Avery Brundage, who was widely criticized for failing to suspend the Games during the hostage crisis, was further criticized for his decision to resume them on the afternoon of September 6. On September 11, closing ceremonies ended the XX Olympiad.

On October 29, Palestinian terrorists hijacked a Lufthansa jet in Beirut and ordered it flown to Munich, where the three surviving Munich terrorists were being held. Germany agreed to turn the terrorists over in exchange for the release of the airliner’s passengers and crew, which was carried out after the jet landed in Libya. The Black September terrorists, however, did not enjoy their freedom for long. Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, formed an assassination squad that eventually killed two of the three terrorists along with at least six others believed to have been involved in the attack on the Israeli Olympic compound. One of the Munich terrorists, Jamal al-Gashey, survives in hiding.



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