1972 Summer Olympics Massacre in Munich, Germany

On September 5, 1972, Summer Olympics at Munich became an unforgettable day, but for all the wrong reasons. Israeli athletes participating in the event became victims of an attack by a mob of Palestinian origins. The attackers stormed the Olympic village apartment where the Israeli athletes were being accommodated, killing two and taking nine as hostages.

As per some historians, the attackers belonged to a group called “Black September.” It was primarily created to avenge the holding of Palestinians as hostages. However, in return for the release of Israeli athletes, the attackers demanded the release of over 200 prisoners in Israeli jails.

Unfortunately, the events took a turn for the worst when the nine Israeli hostages were shot at the Munich airport shootout. The tragedy also subjected a German policeman to the shootings who eventually lost his battle with life the same day. Witnessing how the events unfolded, the organizing committee decided to suspend the competition for 24 hours and held a memorial service for those who lost their lives.

With over 7000 athletes representing more than a hundred countries, the Munich Olympics are listed in history as one of the most gruesome events to take place. Due to the failed negotiations between the attackers and Israeli authorities, the hostages were taken to the Munich airport, where the German police opened fire and attempted to kill the attackers.

However, as a result, a policeman and two attackers were killed. There is no clarity on how the additional nine Israeli hostages were killed. Some speculate that a grenade may have been thrown inside the helicopter where they were bound.

Shortly after holding the memorial service, the president of the International Olympic Committee passed an order to continue the games. This was done in an attempt to prove that despite everything, the Olympians and the public weren’t scared to carry on.

Another reason this event holds a special place in history is that the Israeli government took the services of Mossad agents to track the attackers down and kill them. After over three decades, these events inspired Stephen Spielberg’s movie, “Munich.”

Even though the event is not remembered in a positive light, it did garner some memorable achievements too. One of them was Mark Spitz’s (American swimmer) seven gold medals and also a young Russian gymnast’s two gold medals.

Today, decades since the historical tragedy, many people hold vigils to commemorate the events that unfolded. While there are different theories to explain why and how the events occurred, some information is still unknown, especially regarding the attackers and how they had known about the accommodation of all Olympians.