On This Day - 5th September

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Munich massacre

The Munich massacre was an attack during the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, West Germany, in which the Palestinian terrorist group Black September took eleven Israeli Olympic team members hostage and killed them along with a West German police officer.

Shortly after the crisis began, a Black September spokesman demanded that 234 Palestinian prisoners jailed in Israel and the West German-held founders of the Red Army Faction, Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof, be released.78 Black September called the operation "Iqrit and Biram", after two Palestinian Christian villages whose inhabitants were expelled by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. The Black September commander, Luttif Afif, was born to Jewish and Christian parents. His group was associated with secular nationalism, working for the rights of Palestinians in Israel. West German neo-Nazis gave the group logistical assistance.

Police officers killed five of the eight Black September members during a failed attempt to rescue the hostages. A West German policeman was also killed in the crossfire. The other three Palestinian hijackers were captured. The next month, however, following the hijacking of Lufthansa Flight 615, the West German government released them in a hostage exchange. Mossad responded with the 1973 Israeli raid on Lebanon and Operation Wrath of God, tracking down and killing Palestinians suspected of involvement in the Munich massacre.

Two days prior to the start of the 2016 Summer Olympics, in a ceremony led by Brazilian and Israeli officials, the International Olympic Committee honored the eleven Israelis that were killed at Munich.

At 4:30 am local time on 5 September, as the athletes slept, eight tracksuit-clad members of the Black September faction of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, carrying duffel bags loaded with AKM assault rifles, Tokarev pistols, and grenades, scaled a 2-metre (6 1⁄2 ft) chain-link fence with the assistance of unsuspecting athletes who were also sneaking into the Olympic Village. The athletes were originally identified as Americans, but were claimed to be Canadians decades later.

Once inside, the Black September members used stolen keys to enter two apartments being used by the Israeli team at Connollystraße 31. Yossef Gutfreund, a wrestling referee, was awakened by a faint scratching noise at the door of Apartment 1, which housed the Israeli coaches and officials. When he investigated, he saw the door begin to open and masked men with guns on the other side. He shouted a warning to his sleeping roommates and threw his 135 kg (300 lb) weight against the door in a futile attempt to stop the intruders from forcing their way in. Gutfreund's actions gave his roommate, weightlifting coach Tuvia Sokolovsky, enough time to smash a window and escape. Wrestling coach Moshe Weinberg fought the intruders, who shot him through his cheek and then forced him to help them find more hostages.

Leading the intruders past Apartment 2, Weinberg lied by telling them that the residents of the apartment were not Israelis. Instead, Weinberg led them to Apartment 3; there, the gunmen corralled six wrestlers and weightlifters as additional hostages. It is possible that Weinberg had hoped that the stronger men would have a better chance of fighting off the attackers than those in Apartment 2, but they were all surprised in their sleep.

As the athletes from Apartment 3 were marched back to the coaches' apartment, the wounded Weinberg again attacked the gunmen, allowing one of his wrestlers, Gad Tsobari, to escape via the underground parking garage. Weinberg knocked unconscious one of the intruders and slashed at another with a fruit knife but failed to draw blood before being shot to death.

Weightlifter Yossef Romano, a veteran of the Six-Day War in June 1967, also attacked and wounded one of the intruders before being shot and killed. In its publication of 1 December 2015, The New York Times reported that Romano was castrated after he was shot.