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80.000 Persons from 120 Nations Pay Homage to 11 Slain Israeli Athletes

September 7, 1972
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The huge Olympic stadium was the scene of grief and mourning today as 80,000 persons from 120 nations gathered to pay homage to the 11 members of the Israeli Olympic squad murdered by Arab terrorists. Two of the Israelis were Blain yesterday in a pre-dawn raid on the Israeli quarters in the Olympic Village.

Nine others were killed 23 hours later during a shoot-out between the terrorists and West German police at the Furstenfeldbruck military airport out-side Munich from where the terrorists had expected to fly their hostages to Cairo. The bodies of the slain Israelis will be flown to Israel for burial. The surviving members of the Israeli Olympic squad are scheduled to return home tomorrow.

The atmosphere at the Olympic stadium today was a grim contrast to what it had been a day before. Instead of the cheers of spectators the vast arena echoed to sobbing and murmured prayers. Dozens of dignitaries from all over the world, among them West German Chancellor Willy Brandt and Prince Philip of Britain seemed overcome as the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Rudolf Kemfer, played Beethoven’s Funeral March.

All flags were at half-mast. Avery Brundage, chairman of the Olympic Committee, declared this day a “day of mourning.” Brundage announced that the games will continue tomorrow. “We will not let a handful of terrorists disrupt the Olympic spirit,” he said.


Members of the Israeli Olympic squad sat in the front line of seats. Most of them wore skull caps and were seen murmuring to themselves the Hebrew prayer for the dead. Eliashiv Ben-Horin, Israel’s Ambassador to West Germany, and Haim Lankin, chief of the Israeli Olympic squad, addressed the services in Hebrew. Lankin said later, “This tragedy will not prevent us from participating in future games. Israel will play again in the same spirit of fraternity and peace.” The next Olympic games are scheduled to be held in Montreal in 1976.

Dr. Gustav Heinemann, President of the West German Federal Republic, spoke at the memorial services. “Those countries which do not put a stop to the criminal activities of the terrorists bear the real responsibility” for the massacre, Heinemann said.

Contrary to earlier reports, none of the Arab delegations attended this morning’s services. According to reports, all of them remained in their hostels. The Egyptian delegation which announced its withdrawal from the Olympic games in the aftermath of the tragedy reportedly returned home today.


There were still confusing reports today as to the actual events of the bloodbath in which five terrorists and one German policeman were killed in addition to the 11 Israeli victims. The initial attack on the Israeli quarters in Olympic Village occurred in the early hours of Tuesday morning. Most of the Israeli squad managed to escape.

Nearly 24 hours of fruitless negotiations ended at about 9:45 p.m. local time yesterday when the German authorities agreed to the terrorist demands that they be allowed to fly to Cairo with the hostages. A bus transported terrorists and hostages to the Olympic Village landing area where three helicopters were parked.

Bruno Merk, the Bavarian Minister of Interior said afterwards that the police could not intervene against the building where the hostages were held because it would have meant certain death for all of them. “We had to act at the airport.” Merk said. Two of the helicopters conveyed the terrorists and their victims to Furstenfeldbruck where a Boeing 727 jet supplied by Lufthansa, the West German airline, waited. The third helicopter containing Merk and other officials followed. The terrorists apparently believed they were going to Munich’s civilian airport.

When they arrived at Furstenfeldbruck they spotted West German police and apparently realized they had been led into an ambush. According to the accounts of Merk and Mayor Georg Kronawitter of Munich who witnessed the events at the airport, a gun battle broke out during which one helicopter pilot was wounded. Four of the five Arab terrorists were killed or committed suicide and a fifth were shot down by police.

Before they died, two of the terrorists killed the hostages. Merk said that as far as he could see, one opened fire on the first helicopter in which the victims were apparently bound hand and foot and the other threw a grenade into the second helicopter, demolishing it. “It was terrible, an awful carnage, I will not forget it as long as I live.” Kronawitter said later.

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