Palestinian terrorists, members of the Black September Arab guerrilla group, broke into the Israeli athletes’ compound at the Munich Olympics on 5 September 1972. Over 250 plain-clothes police had been brought into the Olympic Village following a tip-off of trouble ahead, but none of them saw the Arabs scale the fence.
They burst into the Israeli building with sub-machine guns blazing at 5,10 am. Moshe Weinberg (33), a wrestling coach, was killed instantly. Yosef Romano, a weight-lifter, was mortally wounded as he held a door shut while two of his team-mates escaped through the window.
Another 15 athletes also escaped through windows and side doors.
Ten athletes were taken hostage, but one of them, Gad Tsabari, suddenly made a dash for freedom. He wove in and out, dodging bullets. An onlooker said: “He went so fast he would have beaten Borzov, the Russian gold medallist”.
The guerrillas demanded the release of 200 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails and a safe passage out of Germany. Within hours the Olympic Village was surrounded by more than 12,000 police and the Olympic Games were suspended.
When Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir refused the terrorists’ demands, West German police took over the operation.
The terrorists were then taken by helicopter, with their hostages, to the Furstenfeld military airbase 25 miles from Munich. Just before midnight, the guerrillas and their captives began to walk across the tarmac to a waiting Boeing 727 aircraft.
Suddenly, all the airport lights were turned out and German sharpshooters opened fire. The rescue attempt failed tragically and in the gun battle all nine hostages were killed, as well as four Arabs and one policeman.
Three Arabs were captured and one escaped into the nearby woods.
The rest of the Israeli team immediately flew home after what was the first terrorist attack on a modern Olympic Games. Controversially, the Olympic Committee decided that the Games should continue.