Jewish leaders criticized the International Olympic Committee on Wednesday for declining to commemorate the terrorist massacre at the 1972 Munich Olympics during this summer's London Games. They spoke at the 40th anniversary memorial ceremonies held at the former air force base near Munich, where most of the 11 Israeli victims died amid gunfire during a botched German rescue attempt.
Despite the solemnity and formality of the event, speakers bluntly disagreed with one another in their judgment of the tragedy and its aftermath. Dieter Graumann, chairman of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, spoke bitterly of the lack of commemoration during the London Olympic Games. "There was not even one minute for remembrance. The IOC instantly and bluntly rebuffed this wish ... No one will ever understand the frozen hearts of the IOC on this issue."
Likewise, Munich Jewish leader Charlotte Knobloch called it "a blot on the Olympic movement."
Graumann also assailed the late IOC president, Avery Brundage, who announced the continuation of the Munich Games after the killings. "I will never forget 'The Games must go on' of Avery Brundage," Graumann said."
Munich mayor Christian Ude said he shared the "bitterness" at the IOC's refusal to mark the massacre at the London Olympics, but defended Brundage's resumption of the Games. "That was the only reaction possible. Every other reaction would have been the total triumph of the terrorists," said Ude. "It was not cold-heartedness."
Some mourners from Israel who attended the open-air ceremony under gray skies were in Germany for the first time in four decades.
Henry Herscovici, one of the Israeli athletes who survived the terrorist attack, told ARD television that sheer luck had saved him. "I and my friends are here. We had the chance to live."
Several guests condemned the amateurism of the bungled rescue and the lack of frankness afterwards about the mistakes.
The hostage drama began on September 5, 1972, when eight Palestinian gunmen from the Black September group entered the Munich Olympic Village and seized members of the Israeli delegation. Two Israelis were fatally wounded in the initial takeover. Nine more - including athletes, coaches and referees - were killed, along with five gunmen and one German policeman, during an ill-planned German rescue attempt at Fuerstenfeldbruck Air Force Base.
Earlier on Wednesday, German and Israeli officials were joined by relatives of the victims of the massacre for a separate commemoration ceremony.
The Israeli delegation was led by Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom. Among the relatives of the victims was Ankie Spitzer, the widow of fencing coach Andre Spitzer. Shalom laid a wreath near the apartment in the former Munich Olympic Village, where the hostage taking took place.
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