Germany // Munich and central Bavaria //

The Munich Olympic massacre of 1972


Ten days into the 1972 Olympic Games in the early morning of September 5, Palestinian gunmen belonging to the Black September group took eleven members of the Israeli team hostage in their quarters in the Olympic Village. Two were rapidly killed for resisting their captors; within the hour the police and Olympic Committee were informed and for the rest of the day the events played out live in the world’s media. An ill-conceived attempt by the police to ambush the terrorists at Fürstenfeldbruck military airbase as they transferred their hostages from helicopters to a plane to flee the country ended in disaster shortly after midnight on September 6, as one of the Palestinians threw a grenade into one helicopter while the other was raked with gunfire. All the hostages died, yet, incredibly, the games continued. Security has been far tighter at subsequent Olympic Games, though not tight enough to prevent a further terrorist attack in Atlanta, where a bomb killed two people. The excellent documentary One Day in September charts the events from initial kidnapping to botched rescue attempts, while the Israeli authorities’ determination to track down surviving members of the Black September team behind the hostage-taking was the subject of Steven Spielberg’s 2005 film, Munich.

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