Shortly after midnight on the morning of the 6th September 1972, nine Israeli Olympic athletes were killed by Palestinian terrorists from the Black September group in the Munich massacre. The terrorists were seeking the release of 234 prisoners held in Israeli jails along with the two leading members of the Baader-Meinhof Gang held in Germany. However, the hostages and five of the eight terrorists were killed in a shootout at an airfield a short distance outside Munich during a failed rescue attempt by German police.

Security at the 1972 Munich Olympics was kept purposefully low-key in an attempt to shed the military image of Germany portrayed in Nazi propaganda from the 1936 Berlin Olympics. However, the lack of heavy security allowed the eight Black September members to gain access to the Olympic Village by climbing over a fence in the early hours of the 5th September and enter apartments where members of the Israeli team were sleeping.

A total of nine Israeli hostages were held in the apartment block at 31 Connollystraße for over twelve hours before the German authorities agreed to the captors’ demands to arrange transport to Cairo where negotiations would continue. However, a gun-battle broke out after the helicopters that shuttled the hostages and their captors from the Olympic Village landed. The status quo held, but it became clear to the terrorists that their mission was probably going to fail when German armoured personnel carriers arrived at the airport around midnight. At that point the captors turned on the hostages and killed them with machine guns and a grenade.

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© Scott Allsop