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Israel fought back against the Munich terrorists with an organized campaign of assassination, the Post reported in 1993.


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11 Israelis, 4 Arab Guerrillas Die in Day of Olympics Terror

Terrorist at Munich Olympic Games, 1972 By John Goshko
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, Sept. 6, 1972

Munich, Sept. 6 (Wednesday) -- A gang of Arab terrorists yesterday turned the 1972 Olympics into a scene of wholesale political murder that began with a predawn attack on Israeli athletes in the Olympic Village and ended 18 hours later in a bloody airfield shootout with German police.

At the end, 11 Israelis apparently had been murdered -- two in the Olympic Village and nine others during the gunbattle at the airfield.

A Munich city policeman was also dead, and the pilot of a West German military helicopter had been seriously wounded.


As to the Arab terrorists, four had been killed and three were in custody of German police. They had succeeded in turning the sports-lovers' dream world that is the Olympic Games into a nightmare of slaughter.

Left unanswered by all the bloodshed was the question of whether the Games -- already suffering suspension during the events of recent hours -- will be cancelled.

So far, Olympic officials will say only that the matter will have to be decided later today by the full International Olympic Committee. They added that opinion is divided, with some insisting that the Games should go on and some arguing that events have made the thought of continuing unbearable.

Should the Games be continued, there is a chance of great strain in the always delicate relations between West Germany and Israel. The Bonn government of CHancellor Willy Brandt had conceived of the Munich Games as a means of erasing memories of Adolph Hitler and the Nazi era.

Now, it faces the grim fact that 11 persons who were here as guests of the West German government and under its protection have been murdered on German soil. Moreover, the 11 are Jews -- the target of elimination by Hitler's Germany -- and they were killed in the course of the first Olympics to be held in this country since World War II.

Doubly Shocking
This thought was obviously uppermost on the minds of German officials who gathered at a press conference early this morning to break the news of the hostages' deaths. Their announcement was doubly shocking since earlier reports had indicated that the captives had been freed as a result of the airport gun battle.

There was a slim chance, the officials said, that one hostage might have survived and escaped into the darkness. This would not become clear, they added, until the police had a chance to search the still-burning wreckage of a helicopter blown up by terrorist grenades during the gun fight.

In all their statements, the German officials kept emphasizing that every effort had been made to gain the freedom of the hostages first through negotiation and then by setting a trap for the terrorists at the military airport. The Arabs, and their victims, had been brought there under the supposition that they would be flown to Cairo.

However, Genschner said, German officials had decided that this was tantamount to "a death sentence" for the Israelis. Accordingly they settled on a plan to have police snipers try to pick off the terrorists as the helicopters carrying the group from the Olympic Village arrived at the airport.

But the plan backfired, and when the shooting was over, a total of 16 people apparently had died.

Dorm Invasion
This was the bitter end to a story that began early yesterday morning when the Arabs, who later identified themselves as members of the ultra-radical Black September Palestinian terrorist organization, managed to slip into the Olympic Village and invaded the dormitory housing the Israeli team.

In the ensuing struggle, some 15 Israelis managed to escape. But another 11 were not so lucky. One, Moshe Weinberg, 33-year-old wrestling coach, was apparently shot to death at the outset. Another, Yosef Romano, 31, a weightlifter, was described as dying later from wounds in the initial fight.

The Arabs demanded that the Israeli government free 200 Arab prisoners it is holding and said that the hostages would be killed if these demands were not met.

There then ensued 18 hours of tense negotiation during which the Arabs, although extending their deadline several times, held fast to their demands. Genscher said they refused all talk of financial ransom and also turned down a German proposal that Genscher, Merk and Han-Jochen Vogel, former mayor of Munich, become substitute hostages in the Israelis' place.

Finally, Genscher said, it was decided that the only hope of rescue lay in attempting to trap the Arab terrorists outside the Olympic Village. Accordingly, late last night, the Arabs and hostages, who had their hands tied behind them, were escorted out to three waiting helicopters.

Plane Waiting
The machines then whisked the group off to the military airfield of Fuerstenfeldbrueck, 20 miles away, where a borrowed Lufthansa Boeing 727 jet was waiting. At that point, the impression of newsmen and other observers was that the entire group would be flown to Cairo.

Genscher said later, though, that there never was any intention to do this, in part for fears about the hostages' safety if they went to Egypt and in part because the Cairo government had indicated that it would not allow the plane to land.

What ensued instead was a gun battle with waiting police, during which all manner of rumors ran through the Olympic park and finally the sorrowful announcement of officialdom about the tragedy that had occurred.

Afterward, the question turned to the decision, yet to be made, about whether the Games should cotinue. Initially, after the Arabs made their assault, Avery Brundage, president of the International Olympic Committee, had announced that yesterday's scheduled competitions would go on.

And, despite a plea from the Israeli government for a suspension, that's how the day began -- as a surrealistic spectacle of AV cameras cutting back and forth from the scene at the police-surrounded dormitory to shots of boxing, riding and other sports competitions.

By midafternoon, however, Brundage and Daume released a new statement saying that the Games would be suspended. They also said that a memorial service for the murdered Israelis would be held in the Olympic Stadium this morning.

The Israelis later announced that their team would withdraw from the Games and return home today.

Almost all national delegations here -- those from Arab and Communist bloc countries, as well as those representing the West -- were quick to issue statements condemning the terrorists and deploring the deaths.

But, despite all the disclaimers, the dream that the Olympics could be kept free from nationalistic strife and hatreds, seemed to be shattered for all time.

© Copyright 1972 The Washington Post

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