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“Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.” —Genesis 9:6

The “Munich Massacre” at the Olympics, September 5-6, 1972

Islamic countries, especially the Arab nations, have never accepted the State of Israel as a legitimate member of the family of nations. Israel has fought and won eight recognized separate wars since 1948 to maintain their independence. They have also been the targets of numerous terrorist acts and are recognized by only 165 out of the 192 member countries of the United Nations. Israel’s defensive capabilities are legendary, including responses to terrorism and random missile attacks. On September 5, 1972, a Fatah terrorist organization known as Black September conducted a raid on the Israeli national Olympic team in the Olympic village in Munich, Germany, and killed eleven athletes. Israel held the planners and perpetrators accountable.

Procession of athletes in the Olympic Stadium during the 1972 Summer Olympics, Munich, Germany

The XX Olympiad had begun on August 26, the first to be held in Germany since Hitler’s 1936 extravaganza. Hoping to show the world their full return to the community of nations and repudiation of their Nazi past, the German security forces were to be unarmed, unobtrusive and non-confrontational. At 4:30am on September 5, a hit team of Palestinian assassins dressed as athletes, scaled the fence around the Israeli compound and, using stolen pass keys, slipped into the Israeli dormitory. They were confronted by wrestling coach Moshe Weinberg and a referee, Yossef Gutfreund. Weinburg was wounded and forced to lead the terrorist team to the other dorm rooms. The shooters bypassed Room Two, perhaps aware that it contained the Jewish shooting team and they might not fare well in a close encounter with some of the best marksmen in the world at the beginning of their attack. Two wrestlers fought back and were gunned down. Nine hostages were taken.

Israeli hostages Kehat Shorr (left) and Andre Spitzer (right) talk to West German officials

The operation by Black September was nicknamed “Iqrit and Biram”, after two Palestinian Christian villages (seen above L-R) whose inhabitants were expelled by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War

The Palestinians demanded the release of Fatah terrorists held in Israeli jails, as well as two members of the European terrorist network headquartered in France, popularly known as the Baader-Meinhoff gang of the “Red Brigades.” They wanted a plane to fly them and the hostages to a friendly Arab country in the Middle East. While negotiations proceeded and a billion people around the world watched the entire episode unfold on television, the Germans planned a rescue mission, deciding at the last minute to stand down their army hostage rescue team. At 10:00 p.m. the bound and blindfolded athletes were taken to waiting helicopters and flown to a nearby airbase and the awaiting Boeing 727 that would take them to the Middle East.

Front view of Connollystraße 31 in 2007—the window of Apartment 1 (where the first confrontation occurred) is to the left of and below the balcony

The German police set up an ambush in the wrong places, and had no radios, trained snipers or proper rifles. The German constitution prohibited the Army from assisting the police. The plane was filled with seventeen police officers, all of whom left their post before the arrival of the helicopters. Armored cars that were supposed to assist in the assault were stuck in traffic. When the helos arrived, two Arabs ran up the ladder to the plane, recognized the ambush, and opened fire on the police. In the immediate shootout that followed, two terrorists and one policeman were killed. They tossed a grenade into one helicopter, killing all but one of the hostages, and machine gunned the other helicopter, killing the rest.

A damaged helicopter at Fürstenfeldbruck, a NATO airbase, in the aftermath of the ambush

When the armored cars finally arrived in the darkness they opened fire without knowing the situation and struck down two of their own men. When all was over, five terrorists were dead and three captured. The Israeli Olympic team lost eleven members. Less than two months after the massacre, Black September terrorists hijacked a Lufthansa passenger plane and demanded the three incarcerated Palestinians be released. The German authorities quickly assented and the killers were welcomed in Libya as heroes.

Golda Meir (1898-1978)—born Golda Mabovitch to Ukrainian Jewish parents in Kiev—was the only female Israeli Prime Minister (1969 to 1974), and after the incident in Munich authorized the retaliatory “Operation Wrath of God” which would continue for as long as 20 years and result in multiple bombings and massacres of both military and civilian Palestinians

In the aftermath of the Munich massacre, Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir authorized a clandestine operation known “The Wrath of God” to find and assassinate everyone involved in the terrorist operation, both organizers and operatives. The Israeli teams secretly penetrated the terrorist networks operating in Europe: The Red Brigades, The Irish Republican Army, Black September and the others, gathering intelligence on the whereabouts of the perpetrators. Mossad—Israel’s secretive and hyper-competent foreign intelligence agency—put together teams with experts in explosives, forgery, weapons, and logistics, which operated for seven years until the last accessible target fell by car bomb in Beirut, Lebanon in 1979. The incredible aftermath of vengeance by the Mossad agents has been depicted on film and in books, but the full story probably cannot be publicly known.

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