The Israeli State Archives on Wednesday released government documents relating to the 1972 Munich massacre of Israeli athletes at the Olympic Games. The release, coinciding with next week’s 40th anniversary of the September 5-6 massacre, includes many recently declassified documents available to the public for the first time.
In the 1972 bloodbath, 11 Israelis were taken hostage by Palestinian terrorists and then killed during a bungled German rescue attempt. The documents chronicle internal Israeli reactions to the initial hostage taking, tense negotiations with the German authorities during the crisis, and the political and diplomatic fallout after the full extent of the tragedy became known.
The collection of 45 documents includes transcripts of cabinet meetings, ministerial discussions, telegrams and official reports. Among other topics, the files cover discussions between Israel, Germany and the US on potentially suspending the Games after the massacre, the effects on Israel-Germany relations in the immediate aftermath, and then Mossad head Zvi Zamir’s devastating critique of the Germans’ botched rescue attempt.
The release comes just days after a Der Spiegel report shed light on Germany’s clandestine contacts with the organizers of the Munich massacre in the years after the attack, in an effort to prevent further such events occurring on German soil.
The documents show that the German authorities refused to suspend the games, in part, because they said German television would have nothing to broadcast. Ilana Romano, one of the Munich widows, told Army Radio that this revelation was news to her, “and utterly unbelievable.”
Zamir said he couldn’t “bear to think” about the tragic unfolding of the events 40 years ago, with “the sight of Jews bound to one another” being led to their deaths on German soil.
In one document, Zamir said that Germany “did not make even a minimal effort” to save the Israeli hostages.