Flags at half staff for the victims of the 1972 attacks

Flags lowered at the 40th anniversary ceremony in Fürstenfeldbruck -- munichFOTOThe day in Fürstenfeldbruck was grey and the mood was somber. The flags of Germany, Israel and Bavaria that had been flying high moments earlier were lowered to half staff. The village's trombone ensemble began playing a haunting melody, and then both Thomas Karmasin, the District Administrator of Fürstenfeldbruck, and Charlotte Knobloch, the former head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, spoke to open the ceremony in remembrance of the twelve people who were killed by Palestinian terrorists during the 1972 Summer Olympics here in Munich.

Hours earlier, the remaining survivors of the attack, as well as relatives of the victims, had attended a small ceremony at the building in the Olympic Village where the hostage taking had begun and two of the Israeli athletes were killed. Afterwards, the ceremony moved to Fliegerhorst Fürstenfeldbruck, which is the military airbase west of the city of Munich, where the remaining hostages and one West German police officer all lost their lives.

The remembrance gathering was on the site of devastation 40 years earlier -- munichFOTODuring the summer in which the city of Munich has celebrated the fortieth anniversary of the 1972 Summer Olympic Games, as well as the opening of the then brand-new Olympic Park, it was inevitable that the memory of one of the darkest chapters in Olympic history would also be commemorated. There were attempts to convince the International Olympic Committee to have a moment of silence during the opening ceremony of this year's London Olympics for the victims, but ultimately the pleas were denied.

On multiple occasions during the ceremony on 5 September, mention was made of how appropriate it was to finally be able to have that moment of silence for the victims. The list of dignitaries in attendance is too long to list here, but Bavarian Minister President Horst Seehofer was  present and assured the public that the victims would not be forgotten. He went on to say, "The memory of the fifth of September 1972 will not fade over time...the voices of the victims will never be dampened."

Bavarian Minister President Horst Seehofer -- munichFOTODieter Graumann, the current head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, probably said the harshest words of the day, when he questioned the original decision to continue the Games even after the massacre of the Israeli team. It was a resolute decision to show that terrorism had not prevailed, but to this day Graumann sees it as "cold and heartless", and he went on to say that continuing the Olympics showed that the event was more important than the lives of the murdered Jews.

Later in the ceremony, Munich Mayor Christian Ude addressed the issue by reiterating that many mistakes had been made back then in the desire to present the German nation in the best possible light as a friendly and modern country. One of the most vocal family members of the victims is Ankie Spitzer, whose husband Andre died in the attacks.

Because she had become associated with the desire to have that moment of silence at the London Games, it was appropriate that she spoke not only during the ceremony but at the press conference afterwards. "Can you imagine how difficult it is for us," she asked, "To return to this place?" Hopefully, the respect that was shown in the ceremony will help the people whose lives were forever changed by the events that took place forty years ago this week.


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