It only took 45 years, but Germany has finally recognized the eleven Israeli athletes and coaches murdered at the 1972 Munich Olympics, along with a West German policeman. So much for German efficiency. In contrast, it took less than a day for the PLO-offshoot Black September to permanently shatter the illusion of Olympic brotherhood. The horrific attack and subsequent decades long struggle for both the German government and the International Olympic Committee to acknowledge the tragedy are chronicled in Stephen Crisman’s short documentary, Munich ‘72 (trailer here), which commences a series of special screening this Friday in New York and Los Angeles.
Nearly everything about the Olympic terrorist attacks are worse than you assumed. The FRG’s response was stunningly incompetent and there is ample evidence to suggest a government cover-up of the worst details remains ongoing. What is undeniable is eleven Israelis were assassinated by Black September for the crimes of being Jewish and Israeli (some were also Holocaust survivors).
Crisman concisely but comprehensibly recaps the crimes with the help of fellow team-mates, surviving family members, and journalists covering the Munich Games. Ironically, some of the most telling commentary comes from so-called Palestinian “journalists,” who accurately gloat the murders put their cause on the world’s front-burner. However, when pressed regarding the torture endured by the athletes, including a castration allowed to fatally bleed out, they protest ignorance or respond with the sound of crickets chirping. (Raed Othman, cat got your tongue?)
Indeed, this is a case where the world (especially Europe) rewarded cowardly carnage. Time and again, survivors describe the dissembling responses they received from Germany and the IOC when they requested a proper memorial for their loved ones. We hear at length from Ankie Spitzer, Ilana Romano, and Michal Shahar, who suffered such terrible losses and then endured decades of insults in the form of silence from the craven IOC.
The Munich memorial looks classy and altogether fitting, which is something. However, until the IOC finally acknowledges the twelve victims during the official Olympic ceremonies, they continue to provide passive encouragement for further acts of utter butchery.
It is amazing how much Crisman packs into twenty-nine minutes. The film is part history lesson, part expose, and partly a tutorial in how to affirm life in the face of death. Even if you think you know what happened, Munich ’72 will deepen your understanding. It is an infuriating and inspiring film that everyone should see, because the implications of those horrendous events definitely apply to our era as well. Very highly recommended, Munich ’72 and Beyond will have a series of special Oscar season screenings starting this Friday (11/3) at the Cinema Village in New York and the Laemmle Music Hall in Los Angeles.