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Saturday, October 06, 2012

Remembrance of 72 Olympics/Oct. issue of SA Jewish Journal

Remembrance of the 1972 Olympics
By Judge Steve Walker

Forty years ago on September 5th, the Munich massacre perpetrated by the terrorist Palestinian group dubbed “Black September,” assassinated Israeli athletes and coaches participating in the 1972 Olympic Games.

As a visitor to the games, September 5th was to be a particularly special day for me as it was my 25th birthday and an opportunity to attend an additional Olympic event. I had already attended a couple of events previously such as first round boxing and Water Polo as the Olympics were in its second week of activities.

I arrived back in Germany August 29th where I had been stationed on active duty for the previous year in Augsburg, and discharged from the military in April to backpack Europe.

I was returning to Germany specifically to attend the Olympics, from a three week visit in Israel where I spent time in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv & Haifa. I spent a full week in Haifa where I worked on a Kibbutz picking tomatoes and apples in the fields. I had also visited a cousin who survived the horrors of the Holocaust in a concentration camp as a teenager.

September 5th turned out to be a day that would live in infamy.

Eleven Israeli athletes or coaches were brutally killed. The eleven who died included: 33- year-old Wrestling Referee Moshe Weinberg, 31-year-old Weightlifter Yossef Romano, 40-year-old Wrestling Referee Yosef Gutfreund, 28-year-old Weightlifter David Berger, 18-year-old Wrestler Mark Slavin, and 51-year-old Weightlifting Judge Yaakov Springer.

Other Israelis included: 28-year-old Weightlifter Zeev Friedman, 40-year-old Track Coach Armitzur Shapira, 24-year-old Wrestler Eliezer Halfin, 51-year-old Shooting Coach Kahat Shor, and 27-year-old Fencing Coach Andre Spitzer.

On September 6th, a memorial service attended by nearly 80,000 spectators and 3,000 athletes was held in the Olympic Stadium. I was one of those 80-thousand who attended that service. I took photos as well. I heard former Israel’s Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion address the crowd as well as the head of the Olympics, Avery Brundage. Golda Meir was the current Prime Minister at the time.

Each speaker spoke in their native language and it was translated into English, French and German and broadcast to all to hear. Most countries participating except 10 Arab Countries flew their flags at half mast along with the Olympic Flag.

It was speculated at the time that the games would be cancelled but Avery Brundage officially stated "The games must go on, and we must... and we must continue our efforts to keep them clean, pure and honest." The decision was endorsed by the Israeli government and Israeli Olympic team.

The somber and solemn Memorial Service was truly sad and depressing. It appeared there was hardly a dry eye in the crowd. I was informed later that three of the massacred participants were actually American athletes competing under the Israeli flag rather than the United States.

After the service was over, the crowd quietly dissipated and scattered everywhere. The Olympic Games continued and the worst catastrophe in the history of the games will be remembered by those who attended the historical event. I will take the devastating memory to my grave.
As so many other tragedies perpetrated on the Jewish people throughout history, again we say, “Lest We Forget.”

Justice of the Peace, Pct. 2 Steve Walker is a Vietnam Veteran and former Journalist. Walker's grandfather, Robert Ginsberg was a Jewish immigrant from Russia in 1920 when the Czar was persecuting Jews.

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