47th Anniversary of Munich Olympic Massacre

A member of Black September looks over the balcony of one of the Israeli apartments in the Olympic village in Munich, September 5, 1972. (Credit: Getty Images)

A member of Black September looks over the balcony of one of the Israeli apartments in the Olympic village in Munich, September 5, 1972. (Credit: Getty Images)


On September 5th, 1972, eight members of the Black September branch of the Palestinian Liberation Organization trespassed onto the Olympic Village in Munich, Germany. They forced their way into several apartments occupied by Israeli athletes and coaches, taking 11 of them hostage. Two of the Israelis resisted and were shot to death. The other nine were bound, and several of them were beaten. Black September demanded that the Israeli government release over 200 Palestinian prisoners, many of them terrorists, in exchange for the captive Olympians. The Israeli government, under the leadership of Golda Meir, refused to negotiate. The Olympic village was swarmed by international press, capturing live footage of the hooded terrorists standing guard on balconies and the Israeli captives standing in the windows and doorways of their apartments. It was the first such incident to receive live coverage on the world stage.

Meanwhile, the West German government convinced the hostage-takers that they would be given safe passage to a particular airfield where a plane would ferry them with their hostages out of the country. When the terrorists arrived with the hostages in helicopters that evening, they found an empty jet sitting on the tarmac, and were fired upon by German police sharpshooters. In the ensuing firefight, the terrorists used automatic rifles and grenades to murder all nine Israeli Olympians as they sat bound in the helicopters. The gunfire ended early on the morning of September 6th, forty-seven years ago today. Five of the terrorists lay dead, while the other three were in German police custody.

In the aftermath of the Munich Massacre, the remaining three Black September assailants were released by the West German government in exchange for a hijacked German airliner in 1973, as depicted in the 1999 documentary One Day in September. Israeli Premier Golda Meir authorized Operation Wrath of God, in which Israeli agents carried out a series of extrajudicial killings in retaliation for the Munich attack against senior PLO leadership, including the Israeli Raid in Lebanon in 1973, as depicted in the 2005 dramatic film Munich. The leader of Black September and mastermind of the Munch operation, Abu Daoud, was eventually captured by French authorities, but was released on a legal technicality and died in 2010 without ever standing trial for his primary role in the attacks.

After almost a half-century, the Munich Massacre stands as a seminal moment in the history of the young Jewish State; when its enemies began to abandon the unsuccessful strategy of direct warfare in favor of patronizing terrorist groups to act as their proxies, relentlessly attacking Israelis at home and abroad. It is a strategy that continues to this day, as nations such as Turkey and Iran sponsor Hamas and Hezbollah to attack the Israeli homeland and to plot against Israeli targets all over the world.