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The Munich 11


Eleven athletes and coaches in the 30-member Israeli delegation were killed at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich by Palestinian terrorists belonging to a group called Black September. At about 4 a.m. on Sept. 5, the terrorists armed with Kalashnikovs snuck into the Olympic village disguised as athletes. After the initial attack, the Israeli hostages were killed in the ensuing standoff and botched German rescue operations. On Sept. 6, after 3 a.m., NBC sportscaster Jim McKay delivered the tragic news: "I’ve just gotten the final word. When I was a kid, my father used to say our greatest hopes and our worst fears are seldom realized. Our worst fears have been realized tonight. They’ve now said that there were eleven hostages. Two were killed in their rooms yesterday morning. Nine were killed at the airport tonight. They’re all gone." (Thanks to Munich11.org and the Change4Change project for much of the biographical info.)

David Mark Berger

Berger was born on May 24, 1944, in Shaker Heights, a neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio. After receiveing his bachelor’s degree from Tulane University in New Orleans and graduate degrees in business and law from Columbia University, in 1970 he moved to Tel Aviv. Though he retained his U.S. citizenship, he was to begin his Israeli military service in October of 1972 -- shortly after he was slain. A middle-heavyweight weight lifter on the Israeli Olympic team, Berger was taken captive along with other members of the Israeli delegation to the Munich Olympics. Though small in stature, Berger tried to bar his captors from entering his room. Held with his teammates at gunpoint, he suggested that they jump the terrorists. “We have nothing to lose,” he whispered in Hebrew.

Ze’ev Friedman

Friedman was born May 24, 1944, in the former Soviet Union. His first interest in sports was as a gymnast, but he switched to and excelled in weightlifting. His father and mother fled there from Poland after their families were murdered by the Nazis. In May 1960, the family moved to Israel, where Ze'ev worked as a physical education teacher and served in the Israeli Air Force. In 1971 he took the silver medal in the featherweight of class of wrestling at the Asian Games in Manila. At the Munich Olympics, Friedman placed 12th in his event, the best performance of an Israeli athlete at the Games up to that time. Friedman, along with eight teammates who had survived the initial assault, was killed during a botched rescue effort on the part of German authorities.

Eliezer Halfin

Born in Riga, Latvia on June 18, 1948, Halfin had competed for 11 years in school and junior national competitions in lightweight, freestyle wrestling. Eliezer Halfin had only completed his military service two months earlier when he went to compete in the 1972 Munich Olympics. His father was a Holocaust survivor who had lost his first wife and children during the Shoah. In 1963, Halfin’s family applied for exit visas to Israel. He refused to serve in the Russian army and was barred from all sports competitions despite ranking fourth in his weight class in the entire Soviet Union in the national junior competitions. After waiting for the visa for six years, he was finally able to leave for Israel with his parents and sister in 1969. Halfin was shot at point-blank range the day after the initial assault during a shoot-out between German officials and the terrorists at the Fürstenfeldbruck airport.

Amitzur Shapira

Shapira was born July 9, 1932, in Tel Aviv. He was Israel’s top track and field coach. He was a top short-distance runner and long jumper in Israel in the 1950s and became an instructor at the Orde Wingate Institute, Israel’s national center for physical education, in Netanya. He lived in Herzliya, with his wife and four children. He trained 10 of Israel’s best athletes. Esther Shahamorov-Roth, a runner he discovered when she was only 14, was his biggest success. Shapira was murdered by the Black September terrorists during a botched rescue attempt on the part of German officials.

Kehat Shorr

Shorr, an expert marksman, was born Feb. 21, 1919, in Romania. In June of 1941, Romania, as part of the German Axis, joined the invasion of the former Soviet Union. Shorr was marked for internment, but managed to hide in the Carpathian Mountains with other Jewish partisans who made periodic raids on cities to rescue other Jews in hiding. At 53, he was a civil servant in Israel’s Defense Ministry, living in Neve Sharrett, a suburb of Tel Aviv, with his wife and daughter, when he attended the 20th Olympics in Munich in 1972 as a marksmanship coach. During the tense negotiations between the terrorists, who sought the release of more than 200 prisoners from Israeli jails, Shorr famously appeared once at the window of the apartment where the hostages were held. That was the last time he was seen alive.

Mark Slavin

Slavin was born Jan. 31, 1954, in the former Soviet Union and arrived in Israel only three and a half months before the 1972 Olympics. He had taken up wrestling to confront the anti-Semites in his hometown Minsk who repeatedly beat him up, and was admitted to a prestigious training institute. In 1971, at 17, he won the junior Greco-Roman championship in the U.S.S.R. as a middleweight. Following this, his family applied for visas to Israel. He was pressured to stay and later, expelled from the institute and barred from competition. Jewish resistance to Soviet persecution was growing at that time, and Slavin joined protests and was arrested. Slavin’s international debut was to be on Sept. 5 at 9:30 p.m. at the Games. He missed his event, held at gunpoint by terrorists. He died the following day, machine-gunned by terrorists during their two-hour gun battle with German authorities.

Andrei Spitzer

Spitzer was born in Transylvania, Romania, on July 4, 1945. After his father died when he was 11, Andrei and his mother moved to Israel in 1964. He served in the Israeli Air Force and attended the Israeli National Sport Academy to study fencing. In 1968, he was sent to Holland for further training as a fencing master. He fell in love with one of his students, Ankie. They married and moved to Israel, where Andrei became head coach of the Israeli fencing academy. At age 27, he became the country’s top fencing coach — the chief instructor at the Orde Wingate Physical Education Institute, Israel’s top academy for sports instruction. Only two weeks before traveling to the 1972 Munich Olympics, Ankie gave birth to their daughter, Anouk. The couple left the baby with Ankie’s parents in Holland during the competition, though Andrei made a hasty visit to see her during the Games. His wife remembers him meeting and shaking hands with athletes from Lebanon, excited about the prospect of the Games leaving politics at the door.

Yakov Springer

Springer, an international weightlifting referee in Israel’s delegation to the 1972 Munich Olympics, was born in 1921 in Poland and grew up in Warsaw. During World War II, he lived with his family in the Kalish ghetto in Poland. At age 18, he fled to Russia, leaving behind his parents, sisters and a brother, all of whom perished in the Holocaust. In 1946 he returned to Poland and started his studies at the Polish Academy of Sports. He met and married his wife, Rosa, in 1951. Upon graduation, he held a position in the Polish Ministry of Sports. He encountered much anti-Semitism professionally and in 1957, he moved to Israel, along with his wife and two children. He was attending his fifth Olympiad in 1972, having participated in the games in Helsinki, Melbourne, Rome, and Tokyo previously. As an international judge, he could have resided outside the Olympic Village, but instead, chose to share apartments with the Israeli delegation. He was slain on the Fürstenfeldbruck airfield.

Yossef Romano

Romano was one of 11 children, born in Libya on April 15, 1940; he moved to Israel in 1946. He was Israel’s middleweight weightlifting champion for almost a decade. At the 1972 Munich Olympics he injured his knee and dropped out after the clean-and-jerk event. He was set to return to Israel on Sept. 6 for an operation scheduled the following day. His wife, Ilana recalled having a “bad feeling” that grew worse as the Games approached. But Romano assured her, “Nothing will happen, don’t worry. Everything will be okay.” During the siege, Romano made an attempt to escape the apartment where the group had been taken hostage. Though injured and using crutches, Romano, who had fought in the Six-Day War, lunged at one of his captors slashing him with a paring knife and taking his AK-47. Another terrorist shot him. His body was riddled with bullets and he was left bleeding to death in front of his bound teammates as a warning during the terrorists’ tense negotiations with German officials. He was the second Israeli killed during the Games. “I knew he would resist and fight,” recalled Ilana. “He would do something.”

Yossef Gutfreund

Gutfreund was born in Romania on Nov. 1, 1931. He attended medical school in Romania, with a goal of becoming a veterinarian. He was imprisoned for distributing Zionist propaganda, and left Romania at age 17 for Israel. He was Israel’s only Class A wrestling referee. The 1972 Munich Olympics were the third in which he participated. He ran a small appliance shop in Jersusalem and left behind a wife and two daughters. Gutfreund awoke when he heard the terrorists opening the door to the apartment where the Israelis slept. He threw his 6-foot, 6-inch, 290-pound frame against the door, barring the intruders for a few crucial minutes. His shouts woke both Tuvia Sokolsky and Shaul Ladany, allowing them to escape.

Moshe Weinberg

Born in Israel in 1939, Weinberg was the Israeli middleweight wrestling champion in Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling for most of a decade, taking a gold medal in freestyle at the 7th Maccabiah Games in 1965. Weinberg was only 30 when he was named coach of the Israeli national team and was also a director of Israel’s prestigious Wingate Institute, a national center for physical education near Netanya. On Sept. 5, 1972, Weinberg had just returned to his apartment in the Olympic village after a night on the town with friends, when the terrorists accosted him, shooting Weinberg in the cheek. The captors marched Weinberg, bleeding heavily, to another apartment, taking more hostages. After Berger suggested jumping their captors, the terrorists herded them into a line, and marched them to another room. As they went into the hall between apartments, Gad Tsobari, one of the wrestlers, darted out of line, down the stairs into the underground parking lot. In the chaos that ensued, Weinberg grabbed for his captor’s gun, spinning him around and re-directing fire toward himself. He died in a hail of bullets. The terrorists dumped Weinberg’s body in front of the Israeli team’s apartment in the Olympic Village.
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