On 5th September 1972, members of the terrorist group Black September broke into the Olympic Village in the early hours of the morning and took eleven Israeli athletes hostage. Moshe Weinberg, one of the athletes captured, was the first to be killed in creating a diversion which allowed a twelfth athlete, wrestler Gad Tsabari, to escape. Weinberg’s body was discovered by the Munich police at about 5am.
In exchange for the remaining hostages, the terrorists demanded that 234 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and a few other foreign soldiers be released. They refused offers of large sums of money from the German authorities, and the Israeli Prime Minister, Golda Meir, stood by her policy of refusing to negotiate with terrorists. During the day, the images of the Olympic Village and the terrorists were relayed around the world. The terrorists originally stated that one hostage would be killed each hour until the ransom was paid, but they continually extended their deadline.
In exchange for the hostages’ lives, the German authorities allowed the terrorists and the hostages safe passage to a friendly country via helicopter. A police mission to ambush them failed, and the terrorists escaped as far as Furstenfeldbruck in Germany along with their hostages. When the German authorities approached the helicopters, three of the hostages were killed. A battle broke out which lasted until 12:30am the following morning during which all the hostages, a German sniper, several firemen and all but three of the terrorists were killed.
Later that day, over 70,000 people turned up to mourn the hostages at the Olympic Stadium, and activities were temporarily suspended. All the bodies of the athletes, known as the Munich 11, were later returned to their families. Today, these families continue to campaign, so far unsuccessfully, for a minute’s silence in the opening ceremonies of future Olympic Games to honour them – you can help their cause by supporting the Change4Change project. The website www.munich11.org acts as a monument and an educational resource dedicated to the memory of the Munich 11.