Emo­tions run high as memo­rial to vic­tims of Mu­nich Olympic mas­sacre un­veiled

Bangkok Post - - SPORTS -

>> MU­NICH: Wi­d­ows and chil­dren of 11 Is­raeli Olympic team mem­bers mur­dered dur­ing the 1972 Games in Mu­nich un­veiled a memo­rial to the vic­tims at an emo­tional cer­e­mony this week.

The pres­i­dents of Ger­many and Is­rael, Frank-Wal­ter Stein­meier and Reu­ven Rivlin, joined the in­au­gu­ra­tion of what they called an “over­due” trib­ute to the team 45 years af­ter their bru­tal mas­sacre by the rad­i­cal Pales­tinian Black Septem­ber group.

The €2.3 mil­lion (ap­prox­i­mately 92 mil­lion baht) memo­rial en­ti­tled Ein­schnitt (In­ci­sion) on the grounds of Mu­nich’s Olympic Park fea­tures black-and-white pho­to­graphs of the 11 Is­raeli vic­tims and a West Ger­man po­lice of­fi­cer killed in a botched raid.

Fam­ily mem­bers, many fight­ing back tears, gen­tly low­ered a black drape from each of the pic­tures show­ing the men in their prime. A Bavar­ian orches­tra played the Is­raeli na­tional an­them.

Ilana Ro­mano, widow of mur­dered weightlift­er Yossef Ro­mano, told a cer­e­mony in­clud­ing cur­rent IOC pres­i­dent Thomas Bach that the team had been “happy and full of pride” to rep­re­sent Is­rael at the Mu­nich Games and had “re­turned home in coffins”.

Ro­mano said a decades-long drive by fam­ily mem­bers to see a memo­rial built in Mu­nich had long been met with “anti-Semitism and a lack of com­pas­sion”. She called it “very mov­ing” to see it fi­nally com­pleted.

The 1972 Mu­nich Games had been meant to show­case the new face of Ger­many nearly three decades af­ter World War II.

Black Septem­ber gun­men took ad­van­tage of light se­cu­rity to break into the Is­raeli team’s flat at the Olympic vil­lage, im­me­di­ately killing two of the ath­letes and tak­ing nine oth­ers hostage to de­mand the re­lease of 232 Pales­tinian pris­on­ers.

A bun­gled res­cue op­er­a­tion re­sulted in all the hostages be­ing killed along with a West Ger­man po­lice­man and five of the eight hostage-tak­ers.

The news sent shock waves through Ger­many just 27 years af­ter the Holo­caust and opened a deep rift with Is­rael.

Rivlin noted that many of the vic­tims had them­selves been the chil­dren of Holo­caust sur­vivors and had come to Mu­nich in a spirit of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion.

He said the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity owed it to their mem­ory to demon­strate re­solve against ter­ror­ism.

“Forty-five years af­ter the mas­sacre, in­ter­na­tional ter­ror still threat­ens in­no­cent vic­tims,” he said.

“The memo­rial we are in­au­gu­rat­ing to­day must send a mes­sage to the whole world: we must not yield to ter­ror... whether in Barcelona, in Lon­don, in Paris, in Ber­lin, in Jerusalem or in any other place.”

Stein­meier said the blood­shed against Jews on Ger­man soil had filled the coun­try with shame. He ex­pressed hope the memo­rial would help heal what was long an open wound.

“For a long time, far too long, the mem­ory of the vic­tims was over­shad­owed by the per­pe­tra­tors in the pub­lic con­scious­ness,” he said.

“We also fight ter­ror by stand­ing by its vic­tims.”

Fol­low­ing the cer­e­mony, Rivlin and Stein­meier were to pay a visit to the memo­rial of the former Nazi con­cen­tra­tion camp Dachau.

Ger­man Pres­i­dent Frank-Wal­ter Stein­meier, right, and Is­raeli Pres­i­dent Reu­ven Rivlin, sec­ond left, dur­ing the cer­e­mony to open the 1972 Mu­nich Olympic mas­sacre memo­rial.

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