Remembering the Munich Massacre at the London Olympics

July 26, 2012 2:38 pm 3 comments

an iconic image showing one of the hostage takers during the event known as the Munich Massacre, during the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich. Photo: AP.

Two years ago, during the Winter Olympic games in Vancouver, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), observed a moment of silence – appropriately enough – in memory of the Georgian athlete, Nodar Kumaritashvili, who died tragically in a training accident. Ten years ago, in 2002, the IOC memorialized the victims of 9/11, though that terrorist atrocity neither occurred during the Olympic games nor had any connection to them. The duty of remembrance – le devoir de memoir – was justification enough.

The refusal of the IOC, therefore, to observe a moment of silence on the 40th anniversary of the Munich massacre – the slaughter of 11 Israeli athletes for no other reason than that they were Israelis and Jews – is as offensive as it is incomprehensible. As Ankie Spitzer, wife of slain Israeli athlete Andre Spitzer put it, “The IOC says it’s not in the protocol of the Opening Ceremony to have a commemoration. Well, my husband coming home in a coffin was not in the protocol either. This was the blackest page in Olympic history. These eleven athletes were part of the Olympic family, they were not accidental tourists – they should be remembered as part of the Olympic framework”.

Indeed, the explanation proffered by IOC President Jacques Rogge that such memorial would be “inappropriate” is shameful.

This steadfast reluctance not only ignores – but mocks – the calls for a moment of silence by Government leaders, including US President Barack Obama, Australian PM Julia Gillard, and Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird; by various Parliaments including resolutions by the US Congress as well as the Canadian, Australian, German and Italian Parliaments; and the sustained international public campaign and anguished civil societies appeals.

As well, the IOC decision ignores that the Munich massacre occurred at the Olympic games not par hasard, but precisely because the Olympic games provided a venue of international resonance for such an attack; ignores that, as the German Der Spiegel put it, the killings were facilitated by the criminal negligence and indifference of Olympic security officials themselves; Finally, it ignores and mocks the plaintive pleas – and pain and suffering – of the families and loved ones, for whom the remembrance – zachor – of these last forty years is an over-riding personal and moral imperative.

Accordingly, it is not hard to infer that not only were the athletes killed because they were Israeli and Jewish, but that the moment of silence is being denied them also because they are Israeli and Jewish. Professor Deborah Lipstadt – normally understated in her attribution of an anti-Jewish or anti-Israeli motifs – makes the connection. In her words:

The IOC’s explanation is nothing more than a pathetic excuse. The athletes who were murdered were from Israel and were Jews—that is why they aren’t being remembered. … This was the greatest tragedy to ever occur during the Olympic Games. Yet the IOC has made it quite clear that these victims are not worth 60 seconds. Imagine for a moment that these athletes had been from the United States, Canada, Australia, or even Germany No one would think twice about commemorating them. But these athletes came from a country and a people who somehow deserve to be victims. Their lost lives are apparently not worth a minute.”

Again to quote Ankie Spitzer, “I can only come to one conclusion or explanation: This is discrimination. I have never used that word in 40 years, but the victims had the wrong religions, they came from the wrong country.”

This Friday, when the Olympic games begin, let us pause to remember and recall each of the murdered athletes. Each had a name, an identity, a family – each person was a universe. And so, on the eve of the Tisha B’av, the ninth day of the month of Av, which begins Saturday evening, let us join with the families and associated private commemorative gatherings in remembering them:

Moshe Weinberg

Yossef Romano

Ze’ev Friedman

David Berger

Yakov Springer

Eliezer Halfin

Yossef Gutfreund

Kehat Shorr

Mark Slavin

Andre Spitzer

Amitzur Shapira

May their memory be a blessing for us all. Let us hope the IOC may heed the collective call to conscience.

Irwin Cotler is a Canadian Member of Parliament and the Former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada. He is a Professor of Law (Emeritus) at McGill University. He moved the motion – adopted unanimously – in the Canadian Parliament calling for a moment of remembrance at the London games.

3 Comments

  • THERE MAY BE ANOTHER WAY OF ALTERING THE IOC DECISON ON THIS MEMORIAL ISSUE.
    IF CANADA, THE US, AND AUSTRALIA AND OTHER LIKE MINDED COUNTRIES INCLUDING THE UK,(NOW COMPLICIT) REFUSE TO ACCEPT ANY FUTURE IOC BIDS FOR A VENUE UNLESS THE DECISION TO ALTER THIS INSULTING DECISION IS REVISED AND MADE PRIOR TO AGREEING TO MAKING AN OLYMPIC COMMITTMENT.

    WHY COULDN’T WE GET THAT RESOLVED NOW IN THE USA, FOR ANY FUTURE GAMES UNLESS THE PRESSURE TO SELL MORE COKE IS SIMPLY OVER WHELMING ?.. IN FACT WE COULD IT COLD EVEN BE STARTED ONE CITY AT A TIME SIMILAR TO THE OTTOWA PROTOCOL.IT TAKES MONEY TO RUN THE OLYMPICS …EVERYONE KNOWS THAT.

  • Nancy Adamson

    Ironically, the absence of a minute of silence at the Olympic Opening Ceremonies has spurred such an outrage and a dialogue that there has been, in effect, a stonger and more thoughtful remembrance world wide of the tragic deaths of Isreali athletes in an act of politcal terrorism. The IOC was very wrong not to observe that moment. Yet, even within the vignette called Pandemonium, in the ceremony, the actors were displayed silent, hats off, respecting the fallen in WWI. Obviously the organizing committee has no trouble making political statements where it feels so inclined. Given that, I agree that the overtly missing moment of silence for the fallen athletes, (fallen because the world does see the Olympics as a political theatre)was discrimination and the worst kind of political theatre.

  • I agree with this article whole-heartedly. The treatment of the Israeli murders by the IOC is a travesty and I am absolutely certain that if any other nation on the planet had been the subject of these attacks there would be an acknowledgment during the Olympic ceremonies. It is shameful.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity ‘Tears of Color’ Art Exhibit Shows Struggles of Israelis With Eating Disorders

    ‘Tears of Color’ Art Exhibit Shows Struggles of Israelis With Eating Disorders

    JNS.org – “This is how I want to be—without fear. Independent. I want to be like a bird. I want to spread my wings.” So reads part of the description beneath one of the 30 paintings on display until the end of May at the ZOA House in Tel Aviv. The collection represents the first-ever art exhibit of its kind: an exhibit created entirely by Israelis in treatment for eating disorders. Dubbed “Tears of Color,” based on one of the [...]

    Read more →
  • Beliefs and concepts Book Reviews Overprotective or Loving? Daughters Reflect on Jewish Mothers in New Anthology

    Overprotective or Loving? Daughters Reflect on Jewish Mothers in New Anthology

    JNS.org – Rachel Ament noticed that she and her friends often shared humorous anecdotes that were typically variations on a theme: overprotective, worrying Jewish moms who smothered them with love. That included Ament’s own mother. “My mom is probably every Jewish stereotype scrunched into one,” the Washington, DC, resident tells JNS.org. “At the root of all these stereotypical, worrying, overprotective moms, is love.” A social media writer for Capital One, as well as a freelance writer, Ament decided about three years [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Commentary ‎Kosher Lust: Love is Not the Answer (REVIEW)

    ‎Kosher Lust: Love is Not the Answer (REVIEW)

    Kosher Lust, by Shmuley Boteach (Gefen Publishing House, 2014). You really do want to find something positive to say about Shmuley Boteach. He is a phenomenon; very bright, an articulate bundle of energy and self-promotion. Anyone who has the chutzpah to describe himself as “America’s Rabbi” deserves ten out of ten for effort. I believe that along with most Chabad alumni, official and unofficial, he does a lot of good and is a sort of national treasure. In this world [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Theater Hollywood’s Revisiting of Passover’s Exodus Story a Part of Throwback ‘Year of the Bible’

    Hollywood’s Revisiting of Passover’s Exodus Story a Part of Throwback ‘Year of the Bible’

    JNS.org – In a throwback to the golden age of cinema, Hollywood has declared 2014 the “Year of the Bible.” From Ridley Scott’s Exodus starring Christian Bale as Moses, to Russell Crowe playing Noah, Hollywood is gambling on new innovations in technology and star power to revisit some of the most popular stories ever told. “It’s definitely a throwback to the 1950s and early ’60s,” Dr. Stephen J. Whitfield, an American Studies professor at Brandeis University, told JNS.org. Starting with The [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada ‘Jewish Giant’ Headlines New York Jewish Museum Exhibit

    ‘Jewish Giant’ Headlines New York Jewish Museum Exhibit

    Eddie Carmel, dubbed “The Jewish Giant” by American photographer Diane Arbus, is the centerpiece of a new exhibit opening April 11 at The Jewish Museum in New York. Arbus met Carmel, who was billed “The World’s Tallest Man,” at Hubert’s Dime Museum and Flea Circus in 1959 but waited until 1970 to photograph him at his parents’ home in the Bronx, according to the museum. The son of immigrants from Tel Aviv, Carmel posed for Arbus with his head bowed to [...]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Disney Hit ‘Frozen’ Gets Passover Themed Makeover With ‘Chozen’ (VIDEO)

    Disney Hit ‘Frozen’ Gets Passover Themed Makeover With ‘Chozen’ (VIDEO)

    A Passover themed cover of hit songs Let It Go and Do You Want to Build a Snowman? from Disney’s Frozen has attracted tons of media buzz and a cool 65,ooo views on YouTube within days of going online. The work of Jewish a capella group Six13, the track is aptly named Chozen. We are celebrating “our freedom, our favorite festival, our fabulous fans, and aspiring Disney princesses everywhere” the group said. The Chozen music video tells the story of [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity Retreat Gives Young Artists New Platform to Engage With Jewish Ideas

    Retreat Gives Young Artists New Platform to Engage With Jewish Ideas

    JNS.org – Many young Jewish artists struggle to define who they are personally, artistically, and religiously. Against the backdrop of that struggle, the recent Asylum Arts International Jewish Artists Retreat provided a space for some 70 young Jewish artists to explore Jewish ideas, to build community and a culture of reciprocity, and to learn skills to assist their career development. “We are trying to encourage and excite people to engage in Jewish themes,” says Rebecca Guber, director of Asylum Arts. [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Literature Darren Aronofsky Adds Psychological Depth, Little Else to ‘Noah’

    Darren Aronofsky Adds Psychological Depth, Little Else to ‘Noah’

    JNS.org – Has the era of large-scale biblical epics returned? Not since “The Ten Commandments” has there been so much torrential water on the big screen (not counting weather-related disaster films such as “The Impossible”) than in “Noah,” the latest blockbuster from writer and director Darren Aronofsky. “Noah” takes the traditional tale and splices it in an eco-friendly and psychologically driven plot. After Adam and Eve got booted out of the Garden of Eden and after Cain killed Abel, mankind [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.