The bloody drama of 1972: How the terrorist attack at the Munich Olympics took place

The bloody drama of 1972: How the terrorist attack at the Munich Olympics took place

Categories: History | Sport | World

On September 5, 1972, at the Olympic Games in Munich, terrorists took Israeli athletes hostage. All of them died due to an unsuccessful rescue operation. The events took place in front of millions of people almost live. The Palestinian terrorist organization Black September claimed responsibility for the attack.

The bloody drama of 1972: How the terrorist attack at the Munich Olympics took place

On that sad day, the militants of the Palestinian organization "Black September" captured members of the Israeli delegation in the Olympic Village, who were then planned to be exchanged for their fellow prisoners. As a result of the seizure, 11 members of the Israeli national team were killed, as well as a German policeman. Five of the eight terrorists were killed in a failed hostage rescue attempt.

Baron Pierre de Coubertin, who revived the traditions of the Greek Olympiads at the end of the XIX century, hoped that they would serve the cause of peace and unification of different peoples. However, by the middle of the XX century it became obvious that sport in general, and the Olympic Games in particular, had become an instrument of politics.

The bloody drama of 1972: How the terrorist attack at the Munich Olympics took place

"But on At least there is no bloodshed at the Olympics," the enthusiasts said. On September 5, 1972, the last illusions melted away like smoke — for the first time in history, a terrorist act occurred in the Olympic capital, right in the Olympic Village.

The bloody drama of 1972: How the terrorist attack at the Munich Olympics took place

A plan to carry out a terrorist attack at the Olympics appeared among the leaders of the Palestinian organization Black September, a radical group that united people from larger Palestinian formations, such as Fatah and the PFLP.

The bloody drama of 1972: How the terrorist attack at the Munich Olympics took place

The organization took its name in memory of the events of 1970 in Jordan, when Palestinian formations engaged in battle with the royal army. As a result of these events, which became known as "Black September", from 3 to 10 thousand militants and Palestinian civilians were killed and about 150 thousand were expelled from Jordan.

The Black September group, the founder of which is Ali Hassan Salameh, one of the intelligence leaders of the Palestine Liberation Organization, began active activity in November 1971, when Jordan's Prime Minister Wasfi Tel was killed by its militants at the entrance to the Sheraton Hotel in Cairo. In May 1972, Black September held its first action against Israeli citizens. Four militants hijacked a plane with more than 100 passengers and, threatening an explosion, demanded the release of 315 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons at that time. As a result of the hijacking of a passenger plane by Israeli special forces, the hostages were released; one passenger and two of the terrorists were killed.

The idea of a terrorist attack at the 1972 Summer Olympics in In Munich, the leaders of the "Black September" arose after the International Olympic Committee refused to participate in the Games to representatives of Palestine. Eight Black September militants armed with automatic weapons and grenades were tasked with capturing members of the Israeli delegation in the Olympic Village, who were then planned to be exchanged for Palestinian militants in custody.

The bloody drama of 1972: How the terrorist attack at the Munich Olympics took place

The implementation of the terrorists' plans was also facilitated by the situation in the Munich. The organizers of the Olympics tried to minimize the presence of police and special services agents at the venues of the Games and in The Olympic Village. It was extremely important for Munich to demonstrate peacefulness — after all, the gloomy status of the "cradle of Nazism" hung over the city. And West Germany as a whole tried to use the Games to demonstrate openness and good intentions, with which strict security measures did not fit in any way.

The bloody drama of 1972: How the terrorist attack at the Munich Olympics took place

The position at which in Almost anyone could get into the Olympic Village, worried representatives of Israel. However, they received assurances from the organizers that they were completely safe. Apparently, the German authorities focused on preventing the actions of neo-Nazis, ignoring warnings about the possibility of terrorist attacks by Palestinian groups that came from agents in the Middle East.

At 4:30 a.m. on September 5, eight Black September militants, carrying bags of weapons with them, easily overcame the fence of the Olympic Village, ending up on its territory. The atmosphere was so serene that several athletes who saw people climbing over the fence helped them to drag the luggage. A few minutes later, the militants entered the house on 31 Connolly Street, where representatives of Israel lived in several apartments. The terrorists had previously stolen apartment keys at their disposal.

The bloody drama of 1972: How the terrorist attack at the Munich Olympics took place

The first person the terrorists encountered was the judge of the wrestling tournament, Yosef Gutfreund. He raised the alarm, waking up his comrades, and tried to prevent the militants from entering the apartment. Judge Moshe Weinberg, who was wounded in a clash with terrorists, hurried to help him.

The bloody drama of 1972: How the terrorist attack at the Munich Olympics took place

At gunpoint, Weinberg was forced to show other apartments where Israelis lived. Weinberg played a trick by taking the militants to where Israeli wrestlers and weightlifters lived. He hoped that they would be able to resist the terrorists, but the athletes were caught sleeping.

The bloody drama of 1972: How the terrorist attack at the Munich Olympics took place

The courageous Weinberg, despite being wounded, made another attempt to resist, but was killed in a fight with terrorists. The weightlifter Josef Romano, who resisted, also died. As a result, nine people were taken hostage by the Black September militants: shooting coach Kehat Shor, athletics coach Amitsur Shapiro, fencing coach Andre Spitzer, weightlifting judge Yakov Springer, wrestlers Eliezer Halfin and Mark Slavin, weightlifters David Berger and Zeev Friedman, as well as the previously mentioned Yosef Gutfreund.

The terrorists took up defense in the occupied building and put forward conditions for the release of the hostages: by 12:00 on September 5, to release and ensure safe passage to Egypt of 234 Palestinians imprisoned in Israel and two German radicals held in West German prisons: Andres Baader and Ulrik Meinkhov (leaders of the ultra-left terrorist group "Red Army Faction"), as well as 16 prisoners held in prisons in Western Europe. If the requirements are not met, the terrorists promised to kill one athlete every hour.

The bloody drama of 1972: How the terrorist attack at the Munich Olympics took place

The fact that the terrorists' conditions would not be fully met became obvious almost immediately: the Israeli Government, which refused in principle to negotiate with the terrorists, announced that it would not change its position this time either. In return, the Israelis offered Germany the help of their special forces in conducting an operation to free the hostages.

The bloody drama of 1972: How the terrorist attack at the Munich Olympics took place

The German government refused the offer, trying to resolve the situation through negotiations. The militants were offered high-ranking German hostages in exchange for the Israelis, but were refused. The German authorities were ready to do a lot to prevent the death of Jews on their land — the parallels with The Second World War, from which the train in Germany desperately tried to get rid of.

The bloody drama of 1972: How the terrorist attack at the Munich Olympics took place

The German negotiators managed to postpone the deadline for fulfilling the requirements for several hours. At 18:00, the terrorists changed their intentions, demanding a plane to fly with hostages to Cairo. The German authorities agreed to provide the plane, although it was originally a trap — the Egyptian government did not agree to accept the terrorists. The German authorities planned to neutralize the militants at the NATO air base in Furstenfeldbruck, from where the plane was supposed to take off. Iroquois military helicopters were to be delivered to the terrorists' base with hostages.

However, the operation to free the hostages was not prepared. In Germany at that time there were no special detachments to combat terrorists. Five snipers who did not undergo special training for actions in such circumstances, as well as ordinary police units, were used as forces to neutralize the militants. In the Boeing-727 plane, prepared for the terrorists, police officers disguised as pilots were waiting for them. However, a few minutes before the appearance of helicopters with militants and hostages, they left it for some reason.

The bloody drama of 1972: How the terrorist attack at the Munich Olympics took place

Another fatal circumstance was that the German authorities failed to establish during the negotiations how many terrorists were holding hostages in total. The crisis headquarters assumed that there were no more than five of them.

The terrorists, who had not only Israelis in their hands, but also four helicopter pilots, arrived at the base and found that the plane was empty. Realizing that they were trapped, the terrorists engaged in battle with the police forces. Snipers failed to immediately destroy all the militants — two terrorists were killed and two more were injured by their shots.

The bloody drama of 1972: How the terrorist attack at the Munich Olympics took place

One of the German policemen was killed by return fire. Armored personnel carriers were called to help the police. With their arrival, the militants panicked, opening fire on the hostages, and then blowing up the helicopters with grenades. Five of the eight terrorists were killed, three managed to be taken alive. None of the Israeli hostages survived.

After the death of Israeli athletes, the Olympics was interrupted for a day, but the proposal to stop it did not find any support at all. Already at the end of November 1972, the three surviving terrorists were released by the German authorities at the request of the militants who seized the aircraft of the German company Lufthansa. However, they could not avoid responsibility — over the next 20 years, the Israeli special services conducted a series of special operations, destroying most of the organizers and perpetrators of the terrorist attack in Munich.

The bloody drama of 1972: How the terrorist attack at the Munich Olympics took place

Among the dead Israelis were two former Soviet athletes. A 24-year-old native of Riga, Eliezer Khalfin has been engaged in freestyle wrestling since the age of 10, at the junior championship he reached the fourth place. He emigrated to Israel in 1969, continued his sports career and achieved the right to compete at the 1972 Olympics. Mark Slavin, a native of Minsk, was only 18 years old. In 1971, he became the junior champion in Greco-Roman wrestling and was considered one of the most promising young athletes. Mark emigrated to Israel with his family in the spring of 1972 and immediately got a place in the Olympic team of his new homeland. However, the brilliant future of the athlete was crossed out by the terrorist's shot.

The bloody drama of 1972: How the terrorist attack at the Munich Olympics took place

The terrorist attack at the Munich Olympics once and for all changed the attitude to ensuring the safety of athletes during major competitions. Now the organizers allocate huge funds for security measures, thousands of security personnel are involved in the protection of facilities, the latest equipment is used, including air defense systems. After the tragedy in Munich, the creation of special detachments to combat terrorism began all over the world. In July 1974, in preparation for the Olympics in Moscow, the head of the KGB, Yuri Andropov, ordered the creation of a special unit in the structure of the State Security Committee for conducting military operations — the legendary Alpha group.

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