President Rivlin: “We are marching here, and our fallen march with us. We are walking here, and with us are your children, your grandchildren, your families, your fellow members of the delegation, all those who have not for one moment forgotten you. We are walking here, with Israeli sportsmen and women, Olympic medal winners, who saw in you a symbol and role model, and fulfilled your dreams to return to compete in the Olympic Games, and bring a medal home to Israel. Also for you. Also in your name. Because your dreams were a legacy.”
President Rivlin on global terrorism: “There is a need for education from a young age. A need to fight the incitement, the propaganda, to eradicate the discourse of hatred, according to the idea of “love thy neighbor”. I believe that Israel and Germany have the moral duty to be allies in the unwavering struggle against terror, and to find the ways to work together to overcome it.”
On the Olympic remembrance: “We are waiting for injustice to be rectified, that there will be a minute’s silence at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games."
President Reuven Rivlin today, Wednesday, addressed the a memorial ceremony for the 11 members of the Israeli Olympic delegation murdered by terrorists at the 1972 Munich Olympics, marking 45 years since the attack. Also attending the ceremony were Israel’s First Lady Nechama Rivlin, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and his wife, Minister-President of Bavaria Horst Seehofer and his wife, surviving members of the Israeli delegation, and family members of those murdered in the massacre. Addressing the ceremony in addition to President Rivlin were President Steinmeier, Minister-President Seehofer, Mayor of Munich Dieter Reiter, President of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach, and representing the bereaved families, and Ankie Spitzer, widow of Andre Spitzer.
Earlier, at the inauguration ceremony of the memorial to the memory of the murdered Olympians, Dr. Ludwig Spaenle, Bavarian Minister of Education, Science and the Arts, presented the memorial site, representatives of the bereaved families unveiled the plaque on the memorial, a minute’s silence was observed, after which Ilona Romano, widow of victim Yossef Romano, then spoke.
Bavarian Minister of Education, Science and the Arts, Ludwig Spaenle, opened the inauguration ceremony and said, “Members of the families, the memorial site has been designed to describe the fracture in your lives, and in the existence of the whole world, that was caused by an act of terror. Your loved ones will be engraved in our memories forever, and the fact that we were not able to safeguard them is a make of shame for us forever.”
Ilona Romano said after the unveiling of the memorial, “We are standing here in the place our loved ones stood 45 years ago. They felt a sense of great pride for the historic opportunity to represent the State of Israel at the Olympic Games. They did not imagine that this status, would decide their fates, or that of their families. They were killed by wicked murderers, and returned home in coffins. Then, they said that we Israelis had brought terrorism on to German soil, since it was just against Israelis. Forty-five years have passed, and we all here know that terror targets the whole world. If we had only understood then that the murder in the Olympic Village would be terrorism’s opening shots at the whole world. At this time, we feel the deep pain, but also a feeling of fulfillment and gratitude for the establishment of the museum. We feel that the memory of the athletes will not be forgotten. We thank Chancellor Merkel for her commitment to the remembrance of this tragedy. Thank you to the Minister-President of Bavaria who promised to establish a museum, and did so.”
During the ceremony, formerly Israel’s Consulate General to Munich, Tibi Schlosser read the names of the 11 victims of the attack, and members of the families unveiled a plaque in their memories. Moshe Weinberg, Yossef Romano, Yossef Gutfreund, Amitzur Shapira, Ze'ev Friedman, Eliezer Halfin, Andre Spitzer, Kehat Shorr, David Berger, Yakov Springer, and Mark Slavin.
In his address, President Rivlin said, “In September 1972, 45 years ago exactly, members of the Israeli Olympic team walked around the paths of the Olympic Village. Young men, full of hopes and dreams. Athletes who wanted to break records, sportsmen who wanted to be world champions, to bring home an Olympic medal, but most of all, they wanted to live; with their families, close to their children, with their loved ones. The massacre destroyed it all. Forty-five years have passed. And today we are here once again. Forty-five years have passed, until once again stands here an official Israeli delegation, of the State of Israel, on the paths of the Olympic Village, on the Munich soil, in Germany.
“We are marching here, and our fallen march with us. Dear brothers, we are following today the footpaths on which you trod,” continued the President and said, “We are walking here, and with us are your children, your grandchildren, your families, your fellow members of the delegation, all those who have not for one moment forgotten you. We are walking here, with Israeli sportsmen and women, Olympic medal winners, who saw in you a symbol and role model, and fulfilled your dreams to return to compete in the Olympic Games, and bring a medal home to Israel. Also for you. Also in your name. Because your dreams were a legacy.” He added, “We came here today to the Olympic Village, forty-five years too late, to close the circle. To close a circle that will never be closed.”
The President spoke of special significance at the time, for the Olympic team to travel to compete in Germany. “Israeli athletes came to Munich, with the Olympian spirit of brotherhood, of freedom, and unity. Among the delegation there were also family members of Holocaust survivors. But in one moment, the Olympic Village transformed into a killing field. The Olympic flag stained with blood. The interwoven rings – the symbol of brotherhood and unity – torn from there place. The Munich Olympics were the Olympics of blood. All those old enough to remember will never forget those hours in which we followed the fate of the hostages. I remember them well. I remember the moments of hope with the erroneous announcement that the hostages had been safely rescued. And I remember the terrible feeling with the awful news that the hostages had been murdered. Not one of them had been left alive.”
The President went on to quote then Prime Minister Golda Meir, “Twenty-seven years after the end of the Second World War, Jews were murdered bound and gagged, on German soil.”
The President stressed the importance of the memorial as part of the unwavering struggle against terror across the world. “Forty-five years after the massacre, international terrorism continues to threaten and to strike against innocent civilians. There are still those who see in the murder of sportsmen, a heroic deed. Just last year Fatah marked the massacre of the sportsmen as an “act of heroism”. The center we are inaugurating today must be a message to the whole world: There can be no apologizing for terrorism. Terror must be unequivocally condemned, everywhere. In Barcelona, in London, in Paris, in Berlin, in Jerusalem, and everywhere else. We – the international community – must stand united in the struggle against terror, dedicated to fight it and defeat it. Global terrorism is changing all the time. There are times when the response to terror is a military decision. Sometimes, cyber warfare and monitoring electronic media, or science and technology offer a suitable response. At other times we must employ law enforcement to thwart channels for financing terrorism, disguised as charitable organizations and innocuous bank accounts. And at other times, to my sadness more and more frequently, neither the law nor guns, can stop the terror. Here, there is a need for education from a young age. A need to fight the incitement, the propaganda, to eradicate the discourse of hatred, according to the idea of “love thy neighbor”. I believe that Israel and Germany have the moral duty to be allies in the unwavering struggle against terror, and to find the ways to work together to overcome it.”
He continued, “Forty-five years – almost half a century – the victims’ families, and the State of Israel looked expectantly for this moment: the inauguration of a center of remembrance and a memorial in the Olympic Village. Some of the delegation who survived the massacre are sadly no longer alive – indeed just a month ago, weightlifter Tuvia Sokolsky passed away – and still we are waiting for injustice to be rectified, that there will be a minute’s silence at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games.” The President thanked the families, members of the delegation for their dedication to the memory of the victims, and the past Israeli Consulate in Munich for their work to bring the memorial about. He also thanked Dr. Ludwig Spaenle, Bavarian Minister of Education, Science and the Arts, and his team, and Minister-President of Bavaria, Horst Seehofer, for promoting the remembrance. And finally, President Steinmeier for his official recognition of the event.
The President concluded by quoting Shmuel Lalkin, head of the 1972 Israeli delegation, who said, “Israeli athletes will not be deterred by this lowly act, we will continue to participate in Olympic competitions in the spirit of brotherhood and fairness.” The President continued, “The State of Israel fulfilled, and continues to fulfill that promise. The human spirit, the sporting spirit, the spirit of comradery and determination endures and flows through us, Jews, Israelis, whether on the arena floor, or on the waves. Yael Arad, Oren Smadja, Gal Fridman, Michael Kolganov, Ariel Zeevi, Shahar Tzuberi, Yarden Gerbi, and Or Sasson – they are the sons and daughters of that spirit, the spirit that will persevere and prevail.” He ended, “May the memories of our loved ones be inscribed on our hearts, from generation to generation.”
President of Germany, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said at the ceremony, “These Olympic Games should have been jovial games and in the beginning they were. As such we experienced them, both us and the athletes. They should have been relaxed and happy. Everything should have been different than the previous Games in Germany, which the Nazis exploited for their propaganda. Munich in 1972 should have illustrated democracy, it should have proven that this was not the Germany of 1936. The Olympics’ organizers had been responsible for the security of those coming from around the world, but in fact did not succeed in providing security for Israel. The security was placed below the desire to ease of access. This was not a good moment in Germany, nor in Munich. They wanted to portray a Germany that was open and free, and this failed in the most tragic way possible. The global village was transformed into a stage for Palestinian terrorism. A stage which bestowed worldwide attention on the dissemination of fear and horror. A stage for endless hatred of Israel and Israelis. It was forbidden that this should have happened. But here, I can speak also of the present, in which there are still people who are not afraid to express their hatred against Israel. There are still people who wish to trample on our freedom with terrorism, and the means at their disposal are cruel like none other. We have also experienced terrorism in recent years. We must confront it and strengthen our resolve. The dangers of terrorism are great but our resolve is greater. We are determined to defend our way of life.”
He continued, “We are united under the rule of law for life without violence and boundless hatred, by the power of the defending nation. A strong nation, bound to the law and to freedom. Our history and the legacy of the Holocaust strengthen our responsibility towards the State of Israel and our burden in completely rejecting all forms of anti-Semitism. Germany is aware of its past and takes responsibility. To be German is to say that Germany is my land, with all its advantages, as well as to take responsibility for its past. Learning from history is the lesson for all of those who seek their future in Germany.”
Minister-President of Bavaria, Horst Seehofer, said, “Today we are dedicating a site which commemorates the attack, and we are pointing to the barbaric taking of hostages by Palestinian terrorists. Eleven Israeli athletes, and a German police chief were cruelly murdered. The Munich massacre was a breaking point for all of us. This lowly act has left deep wounds until this very day. To remember its lessons and taking responsibility for the past and for the future. This site is a requirement for us to work vigorously. To confront hatred, anti-Semitism, and terrorism aggressively and as united forces. We will not permit once again Jews and Israelis in our country to be subject to violence. Not from far-right extremism, anti-Semitism, and Islamist extremism in even the slightest form. You can feel at home here today and tomorrow, and this new site stands for that promise. Today we witness the ugly face of terrorism in Europe. The despicable terrorism then and now, murderous, panic-causing, hateful and fear-generating, and threatening our security and our values. Nevertheless, I am confident that our core values – tolerance and solidarity, are stronger than terrorism.”
Photo credit - Amos Ben-Gershom (GPO)