The Munich Olympics
One of the greatest tragedies ever to befall an international sporting competition.
After numerous negotiations some of the surviving Israelis were flown by helicopter to Munich airport to be transferred to a waiting plane. Overall, 11 Israelis died--2 at the village and 9 in a helicopter explosion, the latter also claiming the lives of 5 Palestinian terrorists. A German policeman was also murdered.
The killings did not stop as Israelis hunted down the terrorists and got their revenge whenever in a 'Wrath of God mission' they killed surviving members of the Palestinian Black September group. Legal arguments are ongoing and have not as yet led to a financial settlement with those who lost their loved ones.
The story of the massacre was told in the Oscar-winning film documentary One Day in September directed by Kevin Macdonald, produced by John Bassek and Arthur Cohen, and narrated by Michael Douglass. The film was based on the research of the Times investigative journalist Simon Reeve, who described the events in an outstanding book, from which the film took its title.
Reeve writes not only about the massacre as it happens, but pursues the political issues concerning the aggressors and the reactions of countries, including Israel and the Arab world.
According to him, the attack may have been planned over a number of years and the terrorist groups of Black September had been in close contact with other organizations with similar aims like the so-called 'Red Army,' the 'Baader-Meinhof' gang, and even groups in East Germany. Their freedom was included in demands for an exchange of 236 prisoners mainly held in Israel, plus 40 of the Israeli athletes and officials at the Olympic Games.
Eye witnesses confirmed the official account of later years and the facts recorded by Simon Reeve. Henry Kuttner, working as a BBC studio manager and interpreter in Munich, recalls his memories as follows:
"The first I knew of it was at 07.30, coming down for breakfast and seeing a BBC colleague from the News department who had just flown in. He explained why he was here. These Games had suddenly become not just a sports event, but headline news for all the world's media. From then on, the only news we had access to was gleaned from German TV and radio broadcasts. . .
Unfortunately this news and most of what followed was heavily censored, inaccurate, and grossly misleading. After the airport shoot out the German police must have known the full extent of the massacres, but neither German TV nor radio was being allowed to tell its audience the full story. And all the time, I was relaying these untruths in good faith. When at last the dreadful truth emerged, I felt guilty of a crime, having translated all those lies."
Stan Greenberg, a leading sports statistician, worked for many years for the Guinness Book of Records and was involved in many projects involving books about the Olympics. He was in Munich also working for the BBC as a statistician and recalls that 5 September was a rest day for the athletes and, therefore, him too:
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