Munich Massacre

1972
Photograph by Kurt Strumpf

The violence emerges unexpectedly and faceless out of the predictable order.

Kurt Strumpf

Munich Massacre

  • Kurt Strumpf
  • 1972

The Olympics celebrate the best of humanity, and in 1972 Germany welcomed the Games to exalt its athletes, tout its democracy and purge the stench of Adolf Hitler’s 1936 Games. The Germans called it “the Games of peace and joy,” and as Israeli fencer Dan Alon recalled, “Taking part in the opening ceremony, only 36 years after Berlin, was one of the most beautiful moments in my life.” Security was lax so as to project the feeling of harmony. Unfortunately, this made it easy on September 5 for eight members of the Palestinian terrorist group Black September to raid the Munich Olympic Village building housing ­Israeli Olympians. Armed with grenades and assault rifles, the terrorists killed two team members, took nine hostage and demanded the release of 234 of their jailed compatriots. The 21-hour hostage standoff presented the world with its first live window on terrorism, and 900 million people tuned in. During the siege, one of the Black Septemberists made his way out onto the apartment’s balcony. As he did, Associated Press photographer Kurt Strumpf froze this haunting image, the faceless look of terror. As the Palestinians attempted to flee, German snipers tried to take them out, and the Palestinians killed the hostages and a policeman. The already fraught Arab-Israeli relationship became even more so, and the siege led to retaliatory attacks on Palestinian bases. Strumpf’s photo of that specter with cut-out eyes is a sobering reminder of how we were all diminished when the world realized that nothing was secure.

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