Munich 1972 Background

I had been wanting to watch Steven Spielberg’s Munich since it came out in 2005. I was vaguely aware of the events of Munich 1972, but not in any particular detail. It was three years before I was born, after all.

I basically knew that some or all of the Israeli Olympic team had been taken hostage by Palestinians. I knew that there was a rescue of some sort, that failed. And I knew that the Mossad (Israeli’s CIA, basically) had tracked down and assassinated many of those who had played a part in the planning of the Munich attack.

Talking to my father over the phone recently, I told him we had seen the movie and asked him whether he had. He hadn’t.

However, he told me that in 1972 he and my mother were living near Dusseldorf (about 5 hours from Munich) in, then, West Germany. They watched the news while they ate dinner on the small patio of their flat and, presumably with much of the rest of the world, watched with horror as the gruesome events played out.

For more information on Munich 1972, there is a well-written wikipedia article.

By way of summary. Several members of the Israeli Olympic team were taken hostage in September 1972 by operatives of a group named Black September. This group was known to have ties to Yasser Arafat’s fatah movement. ap_munich905_t

The hostage-takers demanded the release and safe passage to Egypt of over 200 members of various terrorist groups who were in prison in Israel (two were in prison in Germany).

The German government devised a rescue plan. However, owing to several strategic and tactical plunders, the attempt caused the death of all save three of the terrorists (by sniper) and all eleven of the hostages (at the hands of the terrorists).

The three captured terrorists were later released after Black September hijacked a Lufthansa jet in October 1972. These released terrorists flew to Libya where they were treated as heroes and gave media interviews.

The response of Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir was swift and determined. She vowed that those responsible for planning and financing the attack. Operation Wrath of God was the Israeli mission to identify, locate, and execute those responsible for Munich who were living in Europe. A similar mission, Operation Spring of Youth (1973), focused on Beirut.

Operation Wrath of God is thought to have lasted as long as twenty years.

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