Munich 1972 Olympics: Widows of Israeli athletes murdered in Munich massacre reveal details of husbands’ torture

Hostages were beaten and had bones broken, while one was castrated 

Loulla-Mae Eleftheriou-Smith
Wednesday 02 December 2015 14:58
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Victims: Four of the Israeli athletes murdered by Palestinian terrorists:
Victims: Four of the Israeli athletes murdered by Palestinian terrorists:

The Israeli Olympic team members held hostage by Black September militants at the 1972 Olympic Games were beaten, tortured – and in one case, castrated – during the siege that eventually ended in the Israelis’ deaths, their widows have said.

In a new documentary on the Munich Massacre, Munich 1972 & Beyond, Ankie Spitzer, widow of Israeli fencing coach Andre Spitzer, explains in an interview that the tragedy was “not just a hostage story”.

Speaking to the New York Daily News, Steven Ungerleider, Olympic historian and one of the documentary’s creators, recalled Ms Spitzer’s interview for the film: “[She said] I think you should know this was not just a hostage story and horrific murder in the Olympic Village – there was torture, our husbands were beaten, and God knows what else.”

At the September 1972 Games, two members of the Israeli Olympic team - wrestling coach Moshe Weinberg and champion weight lifter Yossef Romano – were shot and killed in the Olympic village when eight Black September terrorists stormed the team’s apartments armed with assault rifles and grenades. They then took nine Israelis hostage.

Ms Spitzer told the New York Times the hostages were beaten, some to the point that their bones were broken. Mr Romano apparently tried to overpower one of the terrorists, which is when he was shot.

“What they did is that they cut off his genitals through his underwear and abused him,” Ms Romano told the newspaper. “Can you imagine the nine others sitting around tied up? They watched this.”

Crowds await the repatriation to Israel of the11 murdered athletes

The Olympic team’s widows discovered what happened to their husbands during the siege over 20 years ago when a series of photographs of the aftermath were released along with German police files during litigation proceedings.

Some details of the torture were reported on 10 years ago when the LA Times obtained copies of the images, but the women have not spoken publicly about their husbands’ torture until now.

It has not been established whether Mr Romano was castrated before or after he was killed, but Ms Romano told the newspaper she believes her husband was already dead when it happened.

The Black September terrorists, representing a branch of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, had demanded 234 people be released from Israeli prisons – and two from a German prison – in return for the release of the hostages.

But the ordeal ended with the death of the nine hostages, five terrorists and one German policeman in a bungled police attempt to ambush the Palestinian militants as they tried to escape from Munich’s military airfield.

Three gunmen were arrested in the ambush, but were released three months later when Black September members hijacked a Lufthansa plane in Middle East, promising to blow it up unless their members were released.

The 1972 Olympic Games were suspended for 24 hours and a memorial service held for the members of the Israeli team.

The attack led to a series of Palestinian assassinations by Israel’s Mossad agents. Abu Daoud, also called Mohammed Oudeh, the mastermind of the operation, died in Damascus of kidney failure in 2010.

The documentary focuses on the 43-year fight by the families of the victims for recognition of those killed in the events carried out by the guerrilla group, and its release is expected to coincide with the opening of a memorial for the 11 Israelis in Munich, the New York Daily News reports.

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