According to news sources, the Israeli athletes had enjoyed a night out on September 4, 1972, watching a performance of Fiddler on the Roof before returning to the Olympic Village. At 04:30 AM (local time) on September 5, as the athletes slept, eight tracksuit-clad members of Black September carrying duffel bags loaded with guns and grenades scaled a two-metre chain-link fence with the assistance of unsuspecting U.S. athletes who were also sneaking into the Olympic Village compound. Once inside the terrorists used stolen keys to enter two apartments being used by the Israeli team at 31 Connollystraße.

Yossef Gutfreund, a 40-year-old Israeli wrestling referee, heard a faint scratching noise at the door of the first apartment. When he investigated, he saw the door begin to open and masked men with guns on the other side. He shouted "Hevre tistalku!" (Hebrew חברה תיסתלקו — Guys, get out of here!) and threw his nearly 300-lb. (135-kg) weight against the door to try to stop the Palestinians from forcing their way inside. Gutfreund's actions allowed weightlifting coach Tuvia Sokolovsky and race-walker Dr. Shaul Ladany to escape, while another four athletes, plus the two team doctors and delegation head Shmuel Lalkin, managed to hide. Wrestling coach Moshe Weinberg, age 33, attacked the kidnappers as the hostages were being moved from one apartment to another, allowing one of his wrestlers, Gad Tsobari, to escape[2]. The burly Weinberg knocked one of the intruders unconscious and slashed another with a fruit knife before being shot to death. Weightlifter and father of three Yossef Romano, 31, also attacked and wounded one of the intruders before being killed.

The terrorists were left with nine living hostages: in addition to Gutfreund, they held American-born weightlifter David Berger, age 28; weightlifter Ze'ev Friedman, 28; wrestler Eliezer Halfin, 24; track coach Amitzur Shapira, 40; shooting coach Kehat Shorr, 53; wrestler Mark Slavin, 18; fencing coach Andre Spitzer, 27; and weightlifting judge Yacov Springer, 51.

The terrorists were subsequently reported to be members of the Palestinian fedayeen who were from refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan. They were identified as Luttif Afif ("Issa"), the leader (three of Issa's brothers were also reportedly members of Black September, two of them in Israeli jails), his deputy Yusuf Nazzal ("Tony"), and junior members Afif Ahmed Hamid ("Paolo"), Khalid Jawad ("Salah"), Ahmed Chic Thaa ("Abu Halla"), Mohammed Safady ("Badran"), Adnan Al-Gashey ("Denawi"), and his cousin Jamal Al-Gashey ("Samir"). According to Simon Reeve, Afif, Nazzal and one of their confederates had all worked in various capacities in the Olympic Village, and had spent a couple of weeks scouting out their potential target. A member of the Uruguayan Olympic delegation, which shared housing with the Israelis, says that he found Nazzal actually inside 31 Connollystraße less than 24 hours before the attack, but since he was recognized as a worker in the Village, nothing was thought of it at the time. The other members of the hostage-taking group entered Munich via train and plane in the days before the attack. All of the members of the Uruguay and Hong Kong Olympic teams, which also shared the building with the Israelis, were released unharmed during the crisis.

The terrorists demanded the release and safe passage to Egypt of 234 Palestinians and non-Arabs jailed in Israel, along with two German prisoners, Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof, who were members of the Red Army Faction. The hostage-takers threw the body of Weinberg out the front door of the residence to demonstrate their resolve. Israel's response was immediate and absolute: there would be no negotiation. The German authorities, under the leadership of Chancellor Willy Brandt and Minister for the Interior Hans-Dietrich Genscher rejected Israel's offer to send an Israeli special forces unit to Germany. However, the German police who took part in the attempted rescue operation had no special training in hostage crisis operations.

According to journalist John K. Cooley, the hostage situation presented an extremely difficult political situation for the Germans because the hostages were Jewish. Cooley reported that the Germans offered the Palestinians an unlimited amount of money for the release of the athletes, as well as the substitution of high-ranking Germans. However, the terrorists refused both offers [3].

Munich police chief Manfred Schreiber and Ahmed Touni, head of the Egyptian Olympic team, negotiated directly with the kidnappers, repeating the offer of an unlimited amount of money. According to Cooley, the reply was that "money means nothing to us; our lives mean nothing to us." The Tunisian and Libyan ambassadors to Germany also helped try to win concessions from the kidnappers, but to no avail. However, the negotiators apparently were able to convince the kidnappers that their demands were being considered, as Issa granted a total of five extensions to their deadlines. Elsewhere in the village athletes carried on as normal, seemingly oblivious to the events unfolding nearby.

A small squad of German police was dispatched to the Olympic village. Dressed in Olympic sweatsuits and carrying machine guns, these were members of the German border-police, untrained in counter-terrorist response, and without specific operational plans in place for the rescue. The police took up positions awaiting orders which never came.

In the meantime, camera crews filmed the actions of the police from German apartments, and broadcast the images live to television. The terrorists were therefore able to watch the police as they prepared to attack. Footage shows the terrorists leaning over to look at the police who were in hiding on the roof. In the end, after Issa threatened to kill two of the hostages, the police left the premises.

Israeli hostages (l. - r.) Kehat Shorr and Andre Spitzer talk to German officials during the hostage crisis.At one point during the crisis, the negotiators demanded direct contact with the hostages in order to satisfy themselves that the Israelis were still alive. Fencing coach Andre Spitzer, who spoke fluent German, and shooting coach Kehat Shorr, the senior member of the Israeli delegation, had a brief conversation with Schreiber and Genscher while standing at the second-floor window of the besieged building, with two kidnappers holding guns on them. When the kidnappers became impatient with Spitzer's prolonged answers to the negotiators' questions, the coach was pistol-whipped in full view of international television cameras and pulled away from the window. A few minutes later, Genscher and Walter Tröger, the mayor of the Olympic Village, were briefly allowed into the apartments and spoke with the hostages. Tröger spoke of being very moved by the dignity with which the Israelis held themselves, even as they were tied to beds and clustered around Yossef Romano's bloodied corpse, and that they seemed resigned to their fate [4]. He also noticed that several of the hostages, especially Gutfreund, showed signs of having suffered physical abuse at the hands of the kidnappers, and that David Berger had sustained a gunshot wound to his shoulder.

Failed rescue
After more than half a day of fruitless negotiations, the terrorists demanded transportation to Cairo. The authorities feigned agreement and at 10:10 p.m. two helicopters transported both the terrorists and their hostages to nearby Fürstenfeldbruck airbase, where a Boeing 727 aircraft was waiting. The terrorists believed they were on their way to Riem, the international airport near Munich. The authorities planned an assault on the terrorists at the airport.

Five German snipers, none of whom had any special training, were chosen to shoot the kidnappers. All had been chosen simply because they shot competitively on weekends[5]. During a subsequent German investigation, an officer identified as "Sniper No. 2" stated: "I am of the opinion that I am not a sharpshooter."[6]

The snipers were positioned at the airport but the authorities were surprised to discover that there were eight terrorists. No tanks or armored personnel carriers were at the scene. According to John Cooley, either one or two Israeli officers assisted with the operation. Both Reeve and Groussard name Mossad chief Zvi Zamir and Victor Cohen, one of Zamir's senior assistants, as the Israeli officers at Fürstenfeldbruck, but as observers only. Zamir has repeatedly stated that he was never asked by the Germans for advice or assistance at any time during the rescue attempt.

A Boeing 727 jet was positioned on the tarmac, with five or six armed German police inside, who volunteered to do the job, dressed as flight crew. They were to overpower the terrorists who would inspect the plane, and give the German snipers a chance to kill the terrorists remaining at the helicopters, but were ordinary police officers who had not been trained for such a mission. At the last minute, as the helicopters were arriving on the tarmac, the German police aboard the airplane voted to abandon their mission, without consulting the central command. This left only five sharpshooters to try to overpower a larger and more heavily armed group of terrorists. At that point, General Ulrich Wegener, later the founder of the elite German counter-terrorist group GSG 9, said "I'm sure this will blow the whole affair!"

The helicopters landed just after 10:30 p.m., and the four pilots and six of the kidnappers emerged. While four of the Black September members held the pilots at gunpoint, Issa and Tony walked over to inspect the jet, only to find it empty. Knowing they had been duped, Issa and Tony sprinted back toward the helicopters, and at approximately 11:00 pm, the German authorities gave the order to the police snipers positioned nearby to open fire.

According to Simon Reeve, the German rescue operation was a fiasco:

There was instant chaos. The four German members of the chopper crews began sprinting for safety in all directions. Issa and Tony began running back towards the helicopters, as the third sniper near Wolf opened fire on them. His first shot missed, ploughing into the tarmac near Issa, who steadied himself and then began sprinting in a zigzag towards the helicopters. The sniper fired again, hitting Tony in the leg. He collapsed onto the tarmac.[7].

In the ensuing chaos, the two kidnappers holding the chopper pilots (Ahmed Chic Thaa and Afif Ahmed Hamid) were killed, and a third, Khalid Jawad, was mortally wounded as he fled the scene. The three remaining exposed terrorists scrambled to safety, and began to return fire and shoot out as many airport lights as they could from behind the helicopters, out of the snipers' line of sight. A German policeman in the control tower, Anton Fliegerbauer, was killed by the gunfire. The helicopter pilots fled, but the hostages, who were tied up inside the craft, could not. A stalemate developed. During the gun battle, wrote Groussard, the hostages secretly worked on loosening their bonds. Teeth marks were found on some of the ropes after the gunfire had ended.

The five German snipers did not have radio contact with each other and were unable to coordinate their fire. None of the snipers was equipped with steel helmets or bullet-proof vests, proving an egregious lack of preparation. None of the rifles was equipped with telescopic sights or night-vision scopes. Later it was discovered that one of the snipers never fired a shot because he was positioned directly in the line of friendly fire, without any protective gear. Later in the battle, when hostage-taker Khalid Jawad attempted to escape on foot, this sniper shot and killed the fleeing terrorist, and was in turn wounded by one of his fellow policemen, who was unaware that he was shooting at one of his own men.

Frustrated at the Germans' seeming indifference to the gravity of the situation, Zamir and Cohen went up on the roof of the control tower with a megaphone and tried to talk the kidnappers into surrendering. The terrorists' reply - they fired upon the two Israelis - made it clear that the time for negotiation had long since passed.

The Germans had not arranged for armored personnel carriers ahead of time, and only then were they called in to break the deadlock. Since the roads to the airport had not been cleared, the carriers became stuck in traffic and only arrived around midnight. At four minutes past midnight of September 6, according to Cooley, one of the terrorists, likely Issa, turned on the hostages in the eastern helicopter and emptied a clip into them, killing Springer, Halfin, and Friedman and wounding Berger in the leg. He then took a hand grenade and tossed it into the helicopter, which blew up seconds after.

Issa and another terrorist then dashed across the tarmac and began firing at the police, who killed the pair with return fire. What happened to the remaining hostages is still a matter of dispute. A German police investigation indicated that one of their snipers and a few of the hostages may have been shot inadvertently by the police. However, a Time Magazine reconstruction of the long-suppressed Bavarian prosecutor's report indicates that a third kidnapper (Reeve identifies Adnan Al-Gashey) stood at the door of the helicopter and riddled the remaining five hostages—Gutfreund, Shorr, Slavin, Spitzer and Shapira—with fatal gunfire[9]. Berger would ultimately be the last hostage to die, succumbing to smoke inhalation. In some cases, the exact cause of death could not be established because the corpses of the hostages in the eastern helicopter were burned almost beyond recognition in the explosions and subsequent fire.

Three of the remaining terrorists lay on the ground, two of them feigning death, and were captured by police. Jamal Al-Gashey had been shot through his right wrist [10], and Mohammed Safady had sustained a flesh wound to his leg [11]. Adnan Al-Gashey had escaped injury completely. Tony, the final terrorist, escaped the scene, but was tracked down using dogs and tear gas 40 minutes later, and was shot dead after a brief gunfight. By around 1:30 a.m., the battle was over.

Initial news reports, published all over the world, indicated that all the hostages were alive, and that all the terrorists had been killed. Only later did a representative for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) suggest that "initial reports were overly optimistic."

Jim McKay, who was covering the Olympics that year for ABC, had taken on the job of reporting the events as Roone Arledge fed them into his earpiece. After the botched rescue attempt, he came on the air with this statement:

Our worst fears have been realized tonight. They've now said that there were 11 hostages; 2 were killed in their rooms yesterday morning, 9 were killed at the airport tonight. They're all gone[12].

Impact on the Games
The Olympic competition was suspended on September 5 for one full day; this had never happened before. The next day, a memorial service attended by 80,000 spectators and 3,000 athletes was held in the Olympic Stadium. IOC President Avery Brundage made no reference to the murdered athletes during a speech praising the strength of the Olympic movement, outraging many listeners[13].

Many of the 80,000 people who filled the Olympic Stadium for West Germany's soccer match with Hungary carried noisemakers and waved flags, but when several spectators unfurled a banner reading "17 dead, already forgotten?" security officers removed the sign and expelled the offenders from the grounds[14].

During the memorial service, the Olympic Flag was flown at half-staff, along with the flags of most of the other competing nations. Arab nations attending the Games demanded that their flags remain flying at full-staff[citation needed].

Willi Daume, president of the Munich organizing committee, initially sought to cancel the remainder of the Games, but in the afternoon Brundage and others who wished to continue the Games were able to prevail, stating that they could not let terrorism halt the games [15]. Brundage stated "the Games must go on", a decision that was endorsed by both the Israeli government and Olympic team's chief [16].

On September 5, the Israeli team announced they would leave Munich. All Jewish sportsmen were placed under guard. Mark Spitz, the American swimming star who had already completed his competitions, was hustled out of Munich during the crisis. It was feared that, as a prominent Jew, Spitz himself might be a target for kidnappers. The Egyptian team left the Games on September 7, stating they feared reprisals [17]. The Philippine and Algerian teams also left the Games, as did some members of the Dutch and Norwegian teams. American marathon runner Kenny Moore, who wrote about the incident for Sports Illustrated, quoted one of the Dutch athletes as saying, "You give a party, and someone is killed at the party, you don't continue the party, you go home. That's what I'm doing."

The families of some victims have asked the IOC to establish a permanent memorial to the athletes, but the IOC has declined, saying that to introduce a specific reference to the victims could "alienate other members of the Olympic community," according to the BBC [18]. Alex Gilady, an Israeli IOC official, told the BBC: "We must consider what this could do to other members of the delegations that are hostile to Israel."

There is, however, a memorial to be built outside the Olympic stadium in Munich, in the form of a stone tablet at the bridge linking the stadium to the former Olympic village. There is also a memorial tablet to the slain Israelis outside the front door of their former lodging at 31 Connollystraße. On 15 October 1999 (almost a year before the Sydney 2000 Games) a memorial plaque was unveiled in one of the large light towers (Tower 14) outside the Sydney Olympic Stadium, and remains there today [19][20].

On September 5, Golda Meir, then Prime Minister of Israel, appealed to other countries to "save our citizens and condemn the unspeakable criminal acts committed"[21]. The attack was widely condemned around the world, with King Hussein of Jordan calling it a "savage crime against civilization ... perpetrated by sick minds"[22]. Hussein was the only leader of an Arab country to publicly denounce the Olympic attack.

The bodies of the five Palestinians — 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.

The German authorities imprisoned the three surviving terrorists, and soon formed the counter-terrorism unit GSG 9 to provide a more robust hostage rescue response for future incidents.

On September 9, Israeli planes bombed Palestinian training camps in Syria and Lebanon[23].

On October 29, a German Lufthansa passenger jet was hijacked and demands made for the release of the three surviving terrorists who were being held for trial. Safady and the Al-Gasheys were immediately released by Germany, receiving a tumultuous welcome when they touched down in Libya and giving their own first-hand account of their operation at a press conference broadcast worldwide. Some commentators suspect that the German officials quickly released the terrorists out of fear that Germany's own shortcomings and mishandling of the hostage crisis would be laid bare at a trial[24]. In both ESPN/ABC's documentary The Tragedy of the Munich Games and in Kevin Macdonald's Academy Award-winning documentary One Day in September, it is claimed that the October 29 hijacking was only a show, concocted by Germany and the PLO to allow Germany to be rid of the three Palestinian prisoners.

Operation Wrath of God and Operation Spring of Youth
Main article: Operation Wrath of God
Golda Meir and the Israeli Defense Committee made a decision secretly authorizing the Mossad to track down and eliminate those responsible for the Munich massacre [25]. To this end the Mossad set up a number of special teams to locate and eliminate these terrorists, aided by the agency's stations in Europe [26].

The Israeli mission later became known as Operation Wrath of God or Mivtza Elohim[27]. 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.

We had no choice. We had to make them stop, and there was no other way ... we are not very proud about it. But it was a question of sheer necessity. We went back to the old biblical rule of an eye for an eye ... I approach these problems not from a moral point of view, but, hard as it may sound, from a cost-benefit point of view. If I’m very hard-headed, I can say, what is the political benefit in killing this person? Will it bring us nearer to peace? Will it bring us nearer to an understanding with the Palestinians or not? In most cases I don’t think it will. But in the case of Black September we had no other choice and it worked. Is it morally acceptable? One can debate that question. Is it politically vital? It was.[28]

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

On April 9, 1973, Israel launched Operation Spring of Youth, a joint Mossad-IDF operation in Beirut. The targets were Mohammad Yusuf al-Najjar (Abu Yusuf), head of Fatah's intelligence arm, which ran Black September, according to Morris; Kamal Adwan, who headed the PLO's so-called Western Sector, which controlled PLO action inside Israel; and Kamal Nassir, 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 Najjar, Adwan and Nassir. 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.

On July 21, 1973, in the so-called Lillehammer affair, a team of Mossad agents killed Ahmed Bouchiki, a Moroccan man unrelated to the Munich attack, in Lillehammer, Norway, after an informant mistakenly said Bouchiki was Ali Hassan Salameh, the head of Force 17 and a Black September operative. Five Mossad agents, including two women, were captured by the Norwegian authorities, while others managed to slip away[29]. The five were convicted of the killing and imprisoned, but were released and returned to Israel in 1975. The Mossad later found Ali Hassan Salameh in Beirut and killed him on January 22, 1979 with a remote-controlled car bomb.

Simon Reeve writes that the Israeli revenge operations continued for more than 20 years. He details the assassination in Paris in 1992 of the PLO's head of intelligence, and says that an Israeli general confirmed there was a link back to Munich. Reeve also writes that while Israeli officials have stated Operation Wrath of God was intended to exact vengeance for the families of the athletes killed in Munich, "few relatives wanted such a violent reckoning with the Palestinians". Reeve states the families were instead desperate to know the truth of the events surrounding the Munich massacre. Reeve outlines what he sees as a lengthy cover-up by German authorities to hide the truth [30]. After 20 years of fighting the German government, the families acquired official documentation proving the depth of the cover-up. After a lengthy court fight, in 2003 the families of the Munich victims reached a financial settlement with the German government.

In a new book reviewed by Time magazine, author Aaron J. Klein (who based his book in large part on rare interviews with key Mossad officers involved in the reprisal missions) contends that the Mossad got only one man directly connected to the massacre, Atef Bseiso, who was shot in Paris as late as 1992. The rest of the targets were unconnected or junior operatives. The operation functioned not just to punish the perpetrators of Munich but also to disrupt and deter future terrorist acts, writes Klein. "For the second goal, one dead PLO operative was as good as another." Klein quotes a senior intelligence source: "Our blood was boiling. When there was information implicating someone, we didn't inspect it with a magnifying glass" [31].

Surviving Kidnappers
After many years, the fate of the three Fürstenfeldbruck survivors is in dispute. It has long been claimed that both Mohammed Safady and Adnan Al-Gashey were killed by the Mossad as part of Operation Wrath of God. According to the Klein book, Adnan Al-Gashey actually died of heart failure in the 1970s, not as a result of an attack by the Israeli hit squads. Additionally, in the summer of 2004, PLO veteran Tawfiq Tirawi told Klein that his friend Mohammed Safady was "as alive as you are"[33]. He did not go beyond that rather cryptic comment. No additional evidence has come to light regarding Safady's survival.

The prevailing belief is that Jamal Al-Gashey is the sole remaining hostage-taker alive today (March 2006), living underground, claiming to still fear for his life from Israeli authorities. He is the only one of the surviving terrorists to consent to interviews since 1972, having granted an interview in 1992 to a Palestinian newspaper, and having briefly emerged from hiding in 1999 to participate in an interview for the film One Day in September, during which he was disguised and his face shown only in blurry shadow.

Abu Daoud
Of those believed to have planned the Munich massacre, only Abu Daoud, the man who claims that the attack was his idea, is known to be alive, and is believed to be in hiding somewhere in the Middle East or in Africa. On July 27, 1981 he was shot thirteen times from a distance of around two meters in a Warsaw Victoria (now Sofitel) hotel coffee shop, but surprisingly survived the attack. It is even said that he chased his would-be assassin down to the front entrance of the hotel before collapsing.

Abu Daoud was allowed safe passage through Israel in 1996 so he could attend a PLO meeting convened in the Gaza Strip for the purpose of rescinding an article in its charter that called for Israel's eradication [34].

In his autobiography, From Jerusalem to Munich, first published in France in 1999, and later in a written interview with Sports Illustrated [35], Abu Daoud, now in his seventies, writes that funds for Munich were provided by Mahmoud Abbas, Chairman of the PLO since November 11, 2004 and President of the Palestinian National Authority since January 15, 2005 [36] [37] [38].

Though he claims he didn't know what the money was being spent for, longtime Fatah official Mahmoud Abbas, aka Abu Mazen, was responsible for the financing of the Munich attack.[39]

Abu Daoud, who lives with his wife on a pension provided by the Palestinian Authority, has said that "the [Munich] operation had the endorsement of Arafat," although Arafat was not involved in conceiving or implementing the attack. In his autobiography, Daoud writes that Arafat saw the team off on the mission with the words "Allah protect you". [40] Arafat rejected this claim.

On December 27, 2005, Mohammed Odeh (Abu Daoud) said that he had no regrets about his involvement in the Munich attack, and that Steven Spielberg's new film about the incident would not deliver reconciliation [41]. In an article published in the New York Daily News on December 25, 2005, Ankie Spitzer, widow of fencing coach Andre, says that she has refused several offers of meetings with Abu Daoud, saying that the only place she wants to meet him is in a courtroom. According to Spitzer, "He [Abu Daoud] didn't pay the price for what he did". [42]

List of the Dead
The seventeen people killed in the incident are noted below, arranged by affiliation.

Killed during the initial break-in:

Moshe Weinberg (wrestling coach)
Yossef Romano (weightlifter)
First shot, then blown up in D-HAQO ("eastern") helicopter (seated, L-R):

Ze'ev Friedman (weightlifter)
David Berger (weightlifter)
Yakov Springer (weightlifting judge)
Eliezer Halfin (wrestler)
Machine-gunned in D-HADU ("western") helicopter (seated, L-R):

Yossef Gutfreund (wrestling referee)
Kehat Shorr (shooting coach)
Mark Slavin (wrestler)
Andre Spitzer (fencing coach)
Amitzur Shapira (track coach)
German Police
Anton Fliegerbauer
Black September Hostage-Takers
Luttif Afif, known as 'Issa'
Yusuf Nazzal
Afif Ahmed Hamid
Khalid Jawad
Ahmed Chic Thaa


I hope with the book I am going to write I can get some answers to my two questions that I want to find out.