This year on September 5th and 6th, the families and friends of the 11 Israeli athletes killed at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich will mourn the loss of the fathers, husbands, brothers, and friends, just as they have for the past 43 years. Remembering the brutal terrorist attack that changed their lives forever is difficult and emotional. However, this year, as the families take time to honor their loved ones’ memory, they will know that their tireless efforts have not been in vain. As a result of their refusal to let the world forget, construction of a long-awaited memorial in the Olympic Park of Munich to honor the victims’ lives is now underway.
This memorial project, initiated by the local Bavarian government, is the culmination of decades of efforts from the family members of the murdered athletes. For years the families have struggled with the German government and the International Olympic Committee to officially recognize the murders, honor the memory of the slain Israelis, and be forthcoming with information surrounding the events in early September of 1972.
Finally, the tide is turning. The International Olympic Committee and its new President, Dr. Thomas Bach, have pledged $250,000 to show their support of the memorial in Munich, and they have discussed other possible ways to remember the victims during the upcoming 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio. The Bavarian government, the German government, and The Foundation for Global Sports Development have also financially backed the memorial.
The memorial will be a large structure designed to educate the public about the events which took place during the 36 hour ordeal, but more importantly, the memorial will share the stories of the 11 Israeli victims and German police officer who were killed.
The documentary film, “Munich ’72 and Beyond,” which is in production and set to release and late fall of 2015, tells the story of the brutal murders. However, unique from other films about the terrorist attack, “Munich ’72 and Beyond” gives voice to the families’ subsequent years of grief. The grief has come in many forms as they have mourned their slain family members, struggled to learn more information about what occurred during the 36 hours, and fought to have their loved ones properly and officially remembered.
This week, as memorials take place around the world to honor the victims and their families, we give pause to remember the lives lost.
Amitzur Shapira – Amitzur Shapira was born in Israel in 1932. He excelled in track and field, especially as a sprinter, and he taught at the Wingate Institute’s Jewish College. Shapira served as the track and field coach for the 1972 Israeli Olympic Team.
Andre Spitzer – Andre Spitzer was born in Romania in 1945. Andre and his mother moved to Israel in 1956 after his father died. There he served in the Israeli Air Force and attended the National Sport Academy, where he excelled in fencing. Further instruction abroad in the Netherlands introduced him to his wife, Ankie. The two moved back to Israel, where Spitzer founded the National Fencing Academy of Israel. He was the fencing coach for the 1972 Israeli Olympic Team. He left behind his wife and a baby.
David Berger – David Berger was a young American-born weightlifter. After earning his Masters degree in Business Administration and his law degree, Berger competed in the 1969 Maccabiah Games, where he won gold in the middle weight weightlifting contest. After his experiences in the Israeli competition, Berger emigrated to Tel Aviv to open a law practice and continue weightlifting. His success brought him to the Israeli Olympic Team in 1972.
Eliezer Halfin – Eliezer Halfin was born in 1948 in Riga, Russia where he grew up to become an auto mechanic and began his wrestling career. In 1969 he moved to Israel and obtained citizenship just seven months prior to his death.
Kehat Shorr – Kehat Shorr was born in 1919 in Romania, where he grew up to become an excellent marksman, resulting in winning championships. In 1963 Shorr moved to Israel with his wife and daughter. He founded the marksmanship discipline in Israel and became the national coach. In 1972, he was serving as the shooting coach for the Israeli Olympic Team.
Mark Slavin – Mark Slavin was the youngest of the Israeli victims. He was born in 1954 in the USSR, where he grew up experiencing and fighting against strong anti-Semitism. An excellent wrestler, Mark refused to compete for the USSR and immigrated with his family to Israel in 1972. The Israeli Olympic Team quickly accepted him, and he was favored to win the medal at the 1972 Summer Olympics.
Moshe Weinberg – Moshe Weinberg was born in 1939 in Israel. By the age of 8, he was the nation’s champion youth wrestler. In 1972, leaving a wife and month-old son, Weinberg traveled with the Israeli Olympic Team as a wrestling coach. He is known for being the first hostage to fight back against the terrorists.
Yakov Springer – Born in Poland in the early 1920s, Yakov Springer survived the Holocaust and participated in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. After the end of World War II, Springer moved to Israel where he later became a wrestling and weightlifting coach and judge. For the 1972 Olympics, Springer served on the Israeli team as a weightlifting coach.
Yossef Gutfreund – Yossef Gutfreund was born in 1931 in Romania. Although he intended to be a veterinarian and went to medical school, Gutfreund’s passion was found in wrestling. He was attending the 1972 Summer Olympics as a wrestling judge.
Yossef Romano – Yossef Romano was born in Benghazi, Libya during World War II, when Jewish families in Libya were experiencing extremely harsh treatments. His family made aliyah to what would later be Israel in 1946. He married Ilana Romano, and the couple had three children. He served in the Israeli Defense Force during the Six-Day War in 1967. Five years later he was traveling to Munich for the Olympics as a weightlifter for the Israeli team. He left behind three young daughters and his wife.
Ze’ev Friedman – Ze’ev Friedman was born in Poland in 1944, and he family moved to Israel in 1960. He taught physical education in Haifa. Although he began his sport career as a gymnast, Friedman excelled at weightlifting. He was to compete for the Israeli Olympic weightlifting team.