1972 – Terror in Munich

By Charlotte Caplan (Bogeret, Rosh and Israel Tour Madricha 5778)

In late August and early September, an Israeli team were competing at the Munich Olympics. This was the first time the Olympics had been hosted by Germany since the famous 1936 games. As the 1972 games proceeded, there were tales of individual successes for both Jewish and Israeli athletes. These included Mark Spitz, the Jewish American swimmer winning seven gold medals, whilst Esther Roth-Shachamorov, an Israeli sprinter, qualified for the 100m hurdles semi-final. However, the hope of Esther, and other Israeli athletes, winning a medal was shattered by the horrific events that unfolded in the early hours of the 5th September.
At 4.30am, eight Palestinian militants from the Black September organisation forced their way into the accommodation block where the Israeli team was sleeping. The militants murdered two members of the Israeli team and took nine hostages. A failed rescue mission ultimately resulted in the Israeli hostages also being killed. Subsequently, the games were suspended for 24 hours as a tribute to the murdered Israeli athletes.
The Munich massacre shocked the world as once again Jews were being murdered in Germany. The Olympics, traditionally a time where people of all backgrounds come together to celebrate the greatest sporting moments, were scarred by bloodshed. This atrocious event served as a reminder that Israel would have to continue to fight for its worldwide acceptance.