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The Munich Massacre, 1972 Munich Olympics Massacre of Israeli Athletes (September 5-6, 1972) טבח הספורטאים הישראליים באולימפיאדת מינכן

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The Munich massacre is an informal name for an attack that occurred during the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Bavaria in southern West Germany, when members of the Israeli Olympic team were taken hostage and eventually killed by the Palestinian group Black September.

The kidnappers killed eleven Israeli athletes and coaches and a West German police officer. Five of the eight members of Black September were killed by police officers during a failed rescue attempt. The three surviving assassins were captured, but later released by West Germany following the hijacking by Black September of a Lufthansa Flight 181 airliner. Israel responded to the killings with Operation Spring of Youth and Operation Wrath of God, during which Palestinians suspected of involvement in the massacre were systematically tracked down and killed by Israeli intelligence and special forces.

The International Olympic Committee repeatedly refuses to acknowledge the victims of the massacre of the eleven Israeli team members at the 1972 Munich Summer Games, during an Olympic games event.

International reaction

On 5 September, King Hussein of Jordan—the only leader of an Arab country to publicly denounce the Olympic attack—called it a "savage crime against civilization... perpetrated by sick minds."


The bodies of the five Palestinian assassins—Afif, Nazzal, Chic Thaa, Hamid and Jawad—killed during the Fürstenfeldbruck gun battle were delivered to Libya, where they received heroes' funerals and were buried with full military honors. On 8 September, Israeli planes bombed ten PLO bases in Syria and Lebanon in response to the massacre, killing an estimated 200 people.

On 29 October, fake-hijackers of a West German Lufthansa passenger jet demanded the release of the three surviving gunmen, who had been arrested after the Fürstenfeldbruck gunfight and were being held for trial. Safady and the Al-Gasheys were immediately released by West Germany, receiving a tumultuous welcome when they touched down in Libya and (as seen in One Day in September) giving their own firsthand account of their operation at a press conference broadcast worldwide.

The massacre prompted many European countries to establish permanent, professional, and immediately available counter-terrorism forces, or reorganize already existing units to such purpose. The massacre also prompted prominent arms designers and manufacturers to produce new types of weapons more suitable for counter-terrorists.

Israeli response

Operation Wrath of God and 1973 Israeli raid on Lebanon

Golda Meir and the Israeli Defense Committee secretly authorized the Mossad to track down and kill those allegedly responsible for the Munich massacre, a claim which was disputed by Zvi Zamir, who described the mission as “putting an end to the type of terror that was perpetrated” (in Europe). To this end the Mossad set up a number of special teams to locate and kill these terrorists, aided by the agency's stations in Europe.

The Israeli mission later became known as Operation Wrath of God or Mivtza Za'am Ha'El. Reeve quotes General Aharon Yariv — who, he writes, was the general overseer of the operation — as stating that after Munich the Israeli government felt it had no alternative but to exact justice.

On 9 April 1973, Israel launched Operation Spring of Youth, a joint Mossad-IDF operation in Beirut. The targets were head of Fatah's intelligence arm, which ran Black September, Head of the PLO action inside Israel, and the PLO spokesman. A group of Sayeret commandos were taken in nine missile boats and a small fleet of patrol boats to a deserted Lebanese beach, before driving in two cars to downtown Beirut, where they killed the three PLO officers. Two further detachments of commandos blew up the PFLP's headquarters in Beirut and a Fatah explosives plant. The leader of the commando team that conducted the operations was Ehud Barak.

Benny Morris writes that a target list was created using information from “turned” PLO personnel and friendly European intelligence services. Once completed, a wave of assassinations of suspected Black September operatives began across Europe.

Alleged German cover up

An article in 2012 in a front-page story of the German news magazine Der Spiegel reported that much of the information pertaining to the mishandling of the massacre has been covered up by the German authorities for the past decades. For twenty years, Germany refused to release any information about the attack and did not accept responsibility for the results. The newspaper reported that the government had been hiding 3,808 files, which contained tens of thousands of documents. Der Spiegel said it obtained secret reports by authorities, embassy cables, and minutes of cabinet meetings that demonstrate the unprofessionality of the German officials in handling the massacre. The newspaper also wrote that the German authorities were told about that Palestinians were planning an "incident" at the Olympics three weeks before the massacre, but failed to take the necessary security measures, and these facts are missing from the official documentation of the German government.

YouTube footage:

List of the eleven Israeli athletes and coaches murdered by the terrorists

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