TERRORISM: Horror and Death at the Olympics

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Once they reached Munich, they carefully surveyed the Olympic Village; some got jobs among the 30,000 workers in the village. Athletes from Uruguay, who occupied quarters next to the Israelis, later remembered having seen Arabs in the vicinity.

The Arabs made their move at 4:20 a.m. as the sprawling Olympic Village (see map) lay quiet and sleeping in the predawn darkness. Two telephone linemen saw a group of young men wearing sporty clothes and carrying athletic equipment scale the 6 2/7-ft. fence surrounding the village. It was a fairly common occurrence; many of the Olympic athletes had broken training to enjoy a night on the town, and then scaled the fence to re-enter the compound. But once out of sight, the Arab group stopped to blacken their faces with charcoal or put on hoods, and pull weapons out of their bags. Then they set off toward the Israeli quarters at 31 Connollystrasse, named, in an Olympic tradition, after U.S. Hammer Thrower Harold Connolly and his Czech-born wife, Olga, a discus thrower.

Crisis Center. The 22 male Israeli athletes, coaches and officials shared five apartments in the modernistic three-story building. Uncertain how many of the three-room apartments housed Israelis, the intruders knocked on one of the doors and asked in German, "Is this the Israeli team?" Wrestling Coach Moshe Weinberg, 32, opened the door a crack, then threw himself against it when he saw the armed men, and yelled for his roommates to flee. Weinberg was hit by a burst of submachine-gun fire through the door. Boxer Gad Zavary bounced out of bed, broke a window with his elbow and climbed out. "They fired after me," he said. "I heard the bullets whistling by my ears."

Virtually the same scene was repeated at a second apartment. Wrestler Joseph Romano apparently fought off the intruding Arabs momentarily with a knife, but he was mortally wounded. Yosef Gottfreund, a 6-ft. 1-in., 240-lb. wrestling referee, held a door shut despite the efforts of five Arabs pushing from the other side. "Hevra tistalku!" Gottfreund yelled in Hebrew [Boys, get out!]. It was too late, when the door was finally forced, for Gottfreund to get out. In all, however, 18 Israelis managed to escape. Nine who did not make it to the exits were taken hostage. They were bound hand and foot in groups of three and pushed together onto a bed.

By 6 a.m. Munich police, alerted to the situation by escaping Israelis, had arrived and begun to take the measure of the situation. A Krisenstab, or crisis center, was set up in the village administration building 220 yards from 31 Connollystrasse. Police Chief Manfred Schreiber called up 600 men, along with armored cars, to cordon off the area. Meanwhile an ambulance crew had already been summoned to retrieve the body of Moshe Weinberg, which had been dragged onto the steps of the Israeli compound and left there by two Arabs.

Schreiber boldly walked up to the besieged apartment house, and was met by a terrorist in a white tennis hat and sunglasses. He was apparently the leader of the group—and, as it turned out, the most fanatical. "It occurred to me," the police chief said later, "that I might try to take him hostage. He must have sensed what I was thinking. 'Do you want to take me?' he asked, opening his hand. I saw a hand grenade. He had his thumb on the pin."

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