Before leaving for the Olympic Games, every Israeli athlete pays homage at the graves of 11 compatriots killed in Munich in 1972 by Palestinian terrorists. That year, the shameful decision not to bring everything to a halt was morally bankrupt, and gave a green light for future massacres of innocent Jews.
The Olympic celebration was dead, but the competition went on and on and on. It’s a disgrace that the International Olympic Committee (IOC), because of political opportunism, now chose to forget the slain Israelis.
The Committee just rejected a request from the families of the Israeli athletes to organize an official commemoration on their behalf. There’s nothing like the Olympic Games to bring out collective feelings of peace, sportsmanship and fair competition and the memory of the Israelis had a chance of becoming a reality at the 2012 London summer games. But the Olympic committee capitulated, again, to the Arab ransom.
In 2000, the Palestine Olympic Committee objected to a commemoration in Sidney recalling the Munich massacre. The brave widows of two of the victims have long campaigned to hold a commemoration, either through a moment of silence or a mention in the Committee president’s opening remarks.
“We want the Olympic Committee ... with all 10,000 young athletes in front of them, to say, ‘Let us not forget what happened in Munich’. We want this only for one reason, so it will never happen again,” said recently Ankie Spitzer, whose husband, Andre, was one of the Israelis killed.
If one is to identify a beginning of the slaughtering of Israeli civilians, one must return to that infamous morning at 31 Connollystrasse in the Olympic Village of Munich. Given the supposedly apolitical Olympic backdrop, the sight of Jewish sportsmen, blindfolded and manacled, shuffling to their doom in Germany, stirred international revulsion.
Some of the Israeli athletes assassinated by Arafat’s death squads were Holocaust survivors, while others were “sabras" born in Israel. Each of their stories calls up weeping and prayer. Every one of them was a member of the great body of Israel.
Like Amitzur Shapira, the father of four beautiful children and a teacher in Herzliya. Like Shaul Ladani, who contracted typhoid fever at the concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen. Like Yosef Romano, who the day before he was killed had said, “This is my last competition; I don’t have enough time for my children.”
Like David Berger, an idealist and pacifist Jew from Cleveland, who was supposed to get married after returning from the Olympics. Like Mark Slavin, who kissed the Jewish soil upon his arrival in Israel from Minsk, where he had fought against the Communists who imprisoned thousands of Jews who, like him, wanted to reach Jerusalem. Like Ze’ev Friedman, who spoke a wonderful mixture of Yiddish and Russian and was the last male of his family, incinerated in the gas chambers.
Like Kehat Schorr, who had fought against the Nazi troops in the Carpathian Mountains. Like Yakov Springer, who taught school in Bat Yam and one of the few survivors of the armed revolt in the Warsaw ghetto. Like Eliezer Halfin, who had lost all his relatives in the Holocaust. Like Yosef Gutfreund, who spent months in prison in Romania under the accusation of “Zionist propaganda.”
The building that housed the Israeli athletes was located less than 10 miles from the Dachau concentration camp. They were the first Jews killed in Germany for being Jewish since 1945. Since then, their murder vanished from international memory. The victims’ relatives asked just for “30 seconds” of silence. The Olympic Committee refused it. The next distribution of silver and gold medals will be stained in disgrace and shame. The 11 Israelis died a second time.
Giulio Meotti, a journalist with Il Foglio, is the author of the book A New Shoah: The Untold Story of Israel's Victims of Terrorism