The dream of the Olympics brought eleven Israeli men to Munich in August 1972. They were united in their enthusiasm for sport: weightlifting, fencing, wrestling, sports marksmanship and athletics. Participating in the Olympic Games, as a trainer, referee or athlete, is the high point of every sporting career. Two weeks after their arrival in the Olympic Village, the Palestinian group ‘Black September’ took the eleven hopeful athletes, husbands, fathers and sons hostage and turned them into a plaything for an international conflict. On 5th and 6th September 1972, all the hostages died a violent death. Police officer Anton Fliegerbauer also lost his life in the failed attempt to free the hostages at the airfield in Fürstenfeldbruck.
David Berger grew up as the eldest of three siblings in a Jewish family in Cleveland, Ohio. He completed degree courses in Psychology and Business Management and graduated in Law. But his passion was weightlifting. In his mid-20s, he emigrated to Israel to fulfil his biggest dream: taking part in the Olympic Games.
He arrived in Munich as a weightlifter but was soon eliminated from the competition. Berger remained in the Olympic Village to follow the competitions of his team mates. On the morning of 5th September, the Palestinian group forced their way into the apartment of the Israeli athletes and also took Berger hostage. Berger died in the night of 6th September on the airfield in Fürstenfeldbruck from smoke poisoning.
Ze’ev Friedman grew up in the Soviet Union. His parents came from Poland and fled to the Soviet Union before the NS regime took hold. Many of their relatives did not survive the Shoah. The family wanted to emigrate to Israel and so returned to Poland in 1957. In 1960 they were able to make the journey to Israel. Friedman completed school there. He was a talented athlete and primarily trained as a gymnast. Later, he turned to weightlifting and won the Israeli championships. Friedmann was also able to qualify for many international competitions.
Participation in the Olympic Games was very important to this enthusiastic athlete. Friedman set several Israeli records in his weight class during the weightlifting competitions in Munich. He was taken hostage when the Palestinian group stormed his accommodation. He was shot by the hostage-takers in the night of 5th September in Fürstenfeldbruck.
Yossef Gutfreund was born in Romania. His family survived the holocaust because they were able to hide over and over again. In 1948, the family emigrated to Israel. There, Gutfreund’s parents opened a small guesthouse, he himself was active in the electrical trade. He married and became a father to two daughters. Gutfreund was an enthusiastic wrestler. In addition to his own competitions, he was also active as a referee. In 1964, he travelled to the Olympic Games in Tokyo in this capacity.
Gutfreund was once again selected as an experienced referee for the Olympic Games in Munich. When the Palestinian group stormed his apartment in Connollystraße, he pushed himself against the door and was able to hold off the hostage-takers for a short time. This enabled his team colleague Tuvia Sokolsky to escape from the hostage-takers. In the night of 5th September, Yossef Gutfreund was shot by the hostage-takers in Fürstenfeldbruck.
Eliezer Halfin grew up with his sister in Riga. His parents survived the Shoah, but lost many of their relatives. After many fruitless attempts, the family was able to emigrate to Israel in 1969. Halfin, who had trained as a wrestler since his youth and successfully taken part in many competitions, found a connection in Israel to the Wingate Institute, the national sports centre. There, he met Moshe Weinberg, who would from then on become his trainer. With him, Halfin prepared for his big dream: to participate in the Olympic Games.
Halfin was able to qualify and travelled to Munich with his trainer. He took part in three fights between 27th and 29th August, winning one. He also stayed in Munich after the end of his competitions, following his team mates and enjoying the Olympics. He was taken hostage when the Palestinian group stormed the apartment of the Israeli athletes. The hostage-takers shot him in the night of 5th September on the airfield in Fürstenfeldbruck.
Yossef Romano spent the first years of his life in Libya, which was an Italian colony at the time. In 1946, his family fled from anti-Semitic riots to Palestine. Romano was the fourth eldest of eleven siblings. After school, he trained as an interior decorator. A coincidence led him to weightlifting at 20 years of age: a trainer saw how Romano lifted a friend into the air at the beach and approached him. He soon won his first competition and was the best Israeli weightlifter in his weight class for years. Following his wedding in 1964, he and his wife Ilana had three children.
Romano qualified for the Olympic Games and travelled to Munich. During his competition on 31st August, he suffered a chronic tendon injury and had to leave the games. He planned to return to Israel early for an operation. One day before his planned departure, the Palestinian group stormed the Israeli athlete’s apartment. Romano resisted the hostage-takers and was shot. The hostage-takers would not allow a doctor to see him. Yossef Romano died in front of his team mates eyes.
Kehat Schor grew up in Romania. He survived the Holocaust with his parents. After the war, he met is future wife. The two married and had a daughter. For years, Schor tried in vain to obtain an emigration permit to Israel. It was only in 1963 his family were able to emigrate. As a talented sports marksman, he worked as a trainer in Israel and accompanied the Israeli marksmen to the Olympic Games in Mexico in 1968. In 1972, two Israeli sports marksmen were also able to qualify for the Olympic Games.
As an experienced trainer, Schor accompanied the two marksmen Henry Hershkovitz and Zelig Shtorch to Munich. When the Palestinian group forced their way into the apartment of the Israeli athletes, Schor was taken hostage. Hershkovitz and Shtorch were able to escape. Kehat Schor was shot by the hostage-takers in the night of 5th September on the airfield in Fürstenfeldbruck.
Amitzur Shapira grew up in Tel Aviv. His parents left the Soviet Union shortly before his birth. He was a successful athlete, even as a young man. Shapira studied, married and became a father to two children. He continued to pursue his passion for sport even after the end of his career. In 1964, he accompanied the Israeli athletics team to the Olympic Games in Tokyo. After his return he met his wife and they had two children.
Shapira prepared the sprinter and hurdle runner Esther Shahamorov for the Olympic Games in 1972 and accompanied her to Munich. Israel had high hopes for the talented sportswoman. To Shapira’s great joy, she was able to qualify for the semi-finals in the hurdles on 4th September. The next day, the Palestinian group forced their way into the accommodation of the Israeli athlete. Amitzur Shapira was shot by the hostage-takers in the night of 5th September in Fürstenfeldbruck.
Mark Slavin grew up as the oldest of three siblings in the Soviet Union. His grandfather enabled him to visit an elite sports school, where he trained as a wrestler. At 17, Slavin was a Soviet youth champion in wrestling. Slavin convinced his family to emigrate to Israel, in order to escape the anti-Semitic climate of the Soviet Union. In May 1972, just a few months before the Olympic Games, the family emigrated. The talented wrestler quickly qualified for the Israeli Olympic team.
Slavin was naturalised in order to take part for Israel in the Olympic Games in Munich. The 18 year old prepared for the competition in Munich with his trainer, Moshe Weinberg. On 5th September, the day of the hostage-taking, he took part in his first competition. Mark Slavin was shot by the hostage takers in the night of 5th September in Fürstenfeldbruck.
Andrei Spitzer spent his youth in Romania. His parents survived the Holocaust there. Spitzer chose fencing early on and soon won his first competition. His father died when Spitzer was eleven. He emigrated to Israel together with his mother in 1964. There, he passed on his enthusiasm for fencing to young people. He worked as a trainer and travelled to the Netherlands in 1968 to teach. This was how he later met his wife, Ankie. In June 1972 they gave birth to a daughter.
Two months later, Spitzer travelled to Munich to train the two fencers Yehuda Weinstain and Dan Alon. Both were able to escape the hostage takers in the Olympic Village. Andrei Spitzer was shot by the hostage takers in the night of 5th September in Fürstenfeldbruck.
Yakov Springer grew up in Poland. He was the only member of his family to survive the Shoah, because he was able to flee to the Soviet Union. His parents and siblings were deported and murdered. After the war, he returned to Poland, where he later met his wife. The two married and had two children. Springer studied and took a position in the Ministry of Sport in Warsaw. In 1957, the family emigrated to Israel in order to get away from the anti-Semitic mood in Poland. There, Springer worked as a sports teacher for weightlifting trainers.
Springer travelled to Munich in 1972 in order to lead the weightlifting competition as a referee. He had already participated as a referee in Olympic Games in the past. It was the day before his final day in Munich when the Palestinians stormed the apartment. Yakov Springer was shot by the hostage-takers in the night of 5th September in Fürstenfeldbruck.
Moshe Weinberg, known as Muni, grew up in Haifa with his grandparents. His family came from Austria and were able to flee the National Socialists in 1938. A neighbour got him interested in wrestling and trained him. Weinberg became a successful wrestler and won several Israeli championships. At the end of his career he worked as a trainer in the Wingate Institute, the Israeli sports centre. This was where he met his wife. Their son was born at the start of August 1972, just two months later Weinberg left for Munich.
Weinberg accompanied the wrestlers Eliezer Halfin and Mark Slavin in their competitions at the Olympic Games in Munich. When the Palestinian group forced their way into the apartment of the Israeli athletes, he resisted the attackers. Weinberg was shot by the hostage takers and died. He was the first victim in the hostage taking.
Anton Fliegerbauer grew up with his two siblings in Westerndorf in Lower Bavaria. His parents ran a farm there. Fliegerbauer initially prepared to work in agriculture, however he then decided to train with the Bavarian National Police. From then on, he worked for the police in the state capital of Munich. He was part of the mobile police squad on standby during the Olympic Games. At that time, Fliegerbauer was 32 years old, married and father to a four-year-old son.
On 5th September, 1972, he was ordered to Fürstenfeldbruck with his unit in order to support the police officers there in freeing the hostages. Anton Fliegerbauer was hit by a bullet from a hostage-taker shortly before the gunfight began. He died on site.