Making peace with the past

Making peace with the past

Seven Israeli athletes who survived the tragedy visit Munich for a documentary

A survivor of the 1972 Munich Olympic attack felt like he was "floating on a cloud of love" as he returned to the southern German city this week with several other team mates to take part in a documentary marking the 40th anniversary. 

The seven men, all members of the then Israeli Olympic team that was attacked by Palestinian gunmen on September 5, 1972, said their return to the city that marked their lives forever proved to be an experience of mixed emotions. 

They were among those who managed to survive when Black September gunmen scaled the perimeter fence surrounding the Olympic athletes' village, their weapons concealed in sports bags amid relaxed security. 

Within 24 hours, 11 Israelis, five Palestinians and a German policeman were dead after a standoff and subsequent rescue effort erupted into gunfire. 

"It's a mixed feeling," said 67-year-old former Olympic swimmer Avraham Melamed after returning to the Olympic Stadium on Thursday. 

"We're here having a great time but it is based on the worst time. Our visit here is fantastic. 

“I feel like I'm floating on a cloud of love, but the families and the victims, and the families of the victims share a completely different reality," said Melamed, who had escaped unharmed. 

This was his first visit to Germany since 1972. He now lives in the United States. Former fencer Dan Alon retired from his sport immediately after the attacks on his team mates. 

"I always feel good in Munich but I have some bad memories also. I don't have anything against the Germans... I have only one thing to blame, it's the terrorists, unfortunately," Alon told reporters. 

"We hope that one day, it will be the end of terror around the world." 

His team-mate, former walker Shaul Ladany, said he had been enjoying his time in Munich, sharing the Olympic experience with other athletes until the day that changed the Games for ever. 

"I mingled everywhere. I had friends and I trained with the Canadians and the Americans I knew very well, the German walkers, and I trained with the Italian walkers," said Ladany, who is also a survivor of Nazi concentration camps and visits the graves of his murdered team mates in Tel Aviv every year on September 6.  "I moved freely everywhere." 

As the 40th anniversary of the attack nears, the documentary focuses not only about the deadly event itself, but also the fate of the survivors, including those who returned to Munich. 

"When it happened that Bio Channel decided to make this movie, I was very, very excited. At least now, after so many years, we can come together and tell the world everything that we know," Alon said. 

The documentary is to be broadcast on The Biography Channel on July 7, less than two months before the actual anniversary.

Munich 1972 — When terror struck at sport’s biggest fiesta

* A little after 4.00 am on September 5, 1972, members of Palestine terrorist group Black September jumped over the wall around the Olympic Village and entered the building where the Israeli athletes were staying.
* They took nine of them hostages while gunning down two who resisted.
* The terrorists, eight of them, dropped their list of demands through a window, with the main ones being release of 234 prisoners in Israeli jails and safe passage for them out of Germany.
* Negotiations continued through the day and finally in the night they were transported to the airport by helicopter. German snipers fired at them and in the encounter that followed, the terrorists shot nine hostages.
* Five terrorists died and three were arrested following the encounter. Two months later, they had to be released after terrorists hijacked a plane and demanded their freedom, failing which, they threatened, the plane would be blown up.