34 Photographs of the Horrific 1972 Munich Olympic Massacre

34 Photographs of the Horrific 1972 Munich Olympic Massacre

By Jacob Miller
34 Photographs of the Horrific 1972 Munich Olympic Massacre

The Munich massacre was an attack during the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, West Germany. Eleven Israeli Olympic team members were held hostage and subsequently killed, along with a German police officer, by the Palestinian terrorist group Black September.

Black September demanded the release of 234 political prisoners jailed in Israel. Black September called the operation “Iqrit and Biram” after two Palestinian Christian villages whose inhabitants were expelled by the Israeli Defense Force in 1948.

At 4:30 in the morning on September 5, eight members of the Black September faction of the Palestinian Liberation Organization snuck into the Olympic Villages. The terrorists used stolen keys to enter two apartments being used by the Israeli team. During the attack, wrestling coach Moshe Weinberg knocked one intruder unconscious and cut a second with a knife before being shot to death. Weightlifter Youssef Romano, a veteran of the Six-Days War, also attacked and wounded a terrorist before being castrated and murdered.

Two Bell UH-1 military helicopters were the terrorists were lead to believe would transport the terrorists and hostages to a NATO airbase. An armed assault was planned to take place at the airport. Five German policemen were deployed around the airport in sniper positions however, none had the appropriate training. A Boeing 727 jet was ready on the tarmac with sixteen German police inside dressed as flight crew. At the last minute, the German police voted to abandon the mission when the crisis team discovered that there were eight terrorists rather than two or three.

When the terrorists realized they had been lured into a trap the snipers started to fire. The terrorist then started to execute the Israeli athletes.

Police officers killed five of the eight Black September terrorists during a failed rescue attempt. The three survivors were released from West German prison after Lufthansa Flight 615 was hijacked by Palestinian Black September sympathizers in order to liberate the imprisoned terrorists. West German authorities complied and the liberated terrorists were granted asylum by Muammar Gaddafi in Libya.

Nazi Propagandist Leni Riefenstahl, pictured at the Olympic Stadium, and the remnants of past atrocities, casts a shadow over the games. CNN
The Israeli attendance was meaningful. Just 27 years after the end of the Holocaust, the memory of the atrocities was fresh in all the minds of the coaches and athletes. The team marked its arrival with a visit to the Dachau concentration camp. CNN
A Palestinian terrorist stands guard as Israeli hostages are held captive as leverage to demand the release of political prisoners by the Israeli government. CNN
Israeli Olympic Team members being held captive by Black September before their eventual murders during the Munich Massacre of 1972. cameraoncampus
With terrorists holed up in the Israeli athletes’ quarters, swarms of German policemen, in uniform and plain clothes, move in and seal off the area, Munich, September 1972. Getty Images
West German sharpshooters work their way up buildings and over roofs in the Olympic Village in a futile attempt to get into position to confront the terrorists who were holding 11 Israeli athletes hostage Sept. 5, 1972. (AP Photo)
A German policeman, dressed as an athlete, is lowered over the edge of the roof of the building where Israeli hostages are held, Munich, September 1972. Getty Images
Perched on a terrace directly above the Israeli quarters, a German policeman checks his submachine gun before advancing further, Munich, September 1972. Life Magazine
An Arabic-speaking German policewoman talks to a terrorist, Munich 1972. Co Rentmeester—Time & Life Pictures: Getty Images
An Arabic-speaking German policewoman relays information to authorities by walkie-talkie after speaking with a Black September terrorist, Munich, September 1972
A Black September terrorist talks with German officials, Munich, September 1972. Time
Two West German policemen, armed with submachine guns and wearing tracksuits, get into position on the roof of the building where armed Palestinian terrorists were holding Israel Olympic team members hostage, September 5, 1972. Daily Mail
West German policemen wearing sweatsuits, bullet-proof vests and armed with submachine guns, take up positions on September 5, 1972, on Olympic Village rooftops where armed Palestinians were holding Israeli team members hostage. Daily Mail
A German policeman leans against a wall outside an apartment where Israeli hostages are held, Munich, September 1972. Getty Images
A German policeman outside an apartment where Israeli hostages are held, Munich, September 1972. Getty Images