45 years later, memorial to victims of Munich massacre to be unveiled
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45 years later, memorial to victims of Munich massacre to be unveiled

Rivlin to attend inauguration of tribute to 11 Israelis and one German policeman murdered by Palestinian terrorists at 1972 Olympic Games

Ilana Romano, center, and Ankie Spitzer, right, widows of Israeli Olympic athletes killed by Palestinian gunmen at the 1972 Munich Olympics, attend a memorial in their husbands' honor, ahead of the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016. (AP Photo/Edgard Garrido, Pool)
Ilana Romano, center, and Ankie Spitzer, right, widows of Israeli Olympic athletes killed by Palestinian gunmen at the 1972 Munich Olympics, attend a memorial in their husbands' honor, ahead of the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016. (AP Photo/Edgard Garrido, Pool)

A memorial to the 11 Israeli athletes murdered by terrorists at the 1972 Munich Olympics is to be unveiled on Wednesday, a day after the 45th anniversary of the attack.

The memorial is the result of a decades-long campaign by relatives of the victims of the massacre for a permanent memorial to the athletes at the site of the September 5, 1972 attack.

“There are no happier people, no more satisfied people, than us,” said Ankie Spitzer, the Dutch-born wife of Israel’s slain Olympic fencing coach Andrei. “It took 45 years, but like I tell my kids, if you have a dream, pursue it, if you feel that it is just.”

Among those attending the ceremony Wednesday will be President Reuven Rivlin, who left for Germany Tuesday.

The 11 Israeli Munich victims.
The 11 Israeli Munich Olympics victims.

“The center which we will inaugurate must carry a message for the whole world: There can be no apologizing for terror,” Rivlin said before taking off for Germany on Tuesday.

In the 1972 terror attack, 11 Israelis were taken hostage by the Black September Palestinian terror group. Two of the Israelis were murdered in the Olympic village and the nine others were executed at the airport; a German policeman was killed in a shootout with the terrorists during a botched rescue attempt.

The memorial consists of a large exhibition area carved into a grass mound, creating the effect of an open wound.

The memorial also contains photographs of personal effects from each of the victims.

Stephan Graebner, of the architectural firm Brückner & Brückner that designed the memorial said, “Our design idea was to cut into the hill, to take something away from the landscape. When you think about the massacre, it took something away, cutting into the lives of the victims, the families, the Olympic Games. We wanted to fill this void with memory.”

The memorial was designed by a team under the auspices of the ministry in consultation with relatives of the victims, the consul general of Israel, experts from the concentration camp memorial at Flossenburg, the Jewish Museum in Munich and the Bavarian State Ministry for Political Education.

“We must not forget the victims,“ Bavarian Minister of Education and Cultural Affairs Ludwig Spaenle said in 2013 when the plans for the memorial were unveiled.

Spaenle said the memorial would attempt to address questions about the impact of the attack and the importance of remembrance.

According to a statement from Spaenle’s office, Israeli Foreign Ministry department manager for Western Europe Ilan Ben Dov called the 1972 attack “a trauma for my entire generation.”

“Every Israeli group that comes to Germany as part of a youth exchange and educational cooperation should visit this site,” Ben Dov said in the statement.

The site will also fill what many say has been a hole in commemoration of the victims of the attack.

Olympic officials had been criticized for continuing with the Olympic games immediately after the attack and for refusing to recognize the massacre with a minute of silence in 2012, despite a high-profile campaign by Spitzer.

 

Two West German policemen, armed with submachine guns and wearing tracksuits, get into position on the roof of the building where armed Palestinian terrorists were holding Israel Olympic team members hostage, September 5, 1972 (photo credit:AP)
Two West German policemen, armed with submachine guns and wearing tracksuits, get into position on the roof of the building where armed Palestinian terrorists were holding Israel Olympic team members hostage, September 5, 1972 (photo credit:AP)

A day after the attack, once it had been revealed that all of the Israeli hostages had been killed, a memorial was held in the main stadium. During the ceremony, the Olympic flag was lowered to half-mast but, under threat of boycott, 10 Arab flags fluttered at full height.

The first and only American IOC President, Avery Brundage, speaking in front of 80,000 people in the stadium, bemoaned the fact that the 20th Olympiad had “been the target of two terrible attacks because we have lost the struggle against political repression in the case of Rhodesia.”

A member of the terrorist group Black September, which seized members of the Israeli Olympic team at their quarters during the 1972 Munich Olympics (photo credit: AP/Kurt Strumpf)
A member of the terrorist group Black September, which seized members of the Israeli Olympic team at their quarters during the 1972 Munich Olympics. (AP/Kurt Strumpf)

The emphasis was on the blow to the Games and not the people killed. He assured the crowd that, despite all, “The Games must go on!”

Rivlin said that the memorial must remind the world to stand against terror.

“Forty-five years after the massacre, international terrorism continues to threaten and strike innocent civilians. There are still those who see the massacre of the sportsmen as an heroic act,” he said. “Terror must be condemned unequivocally, everywhere. In Barcelona, in London, in Paris, in Berlin, in Jerusalem, everywhere. We, the international community, must stand untied in the struggle against terror, determined to fight and defeat it.”

Mitch Ginsburg and JTA contributed to this report.

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