Just A Few Words
The families of the 11 Israeli victims of the 1972 Munich Olympic massacre this week urged the International Olympic Committee to include "just a few words" in memory of their loved ones at Friday's opening ceremony, as the IOC appeared to dash any lingering hopes that a minute's silence might yet be held.
Ankie Spitzer (pictured), the widow of murdered Israeli fencing coach Andrei Spitzer, told the Jewish News: "We want Jacques Rogge, President of the IOC, to simply say: 'Let us never forget what happened to 11 Olympic athletes in 1972'. To hear those words spoken at London's Olympic stadium next week would be enough, even without a minute of silence."
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Dutch-born Ankie has been at the forefront of the bereaved families' decades-long quest to have an official, public remembrance of the atrocity. She added:
"We know that the Israeli National Olympic Committee will once again host a memorial event, but the 11 athletes were murdered at an Olympic Games. They were part of the Olympic family. That is why they must be remembered within the international Olympic framework, and not only at the ceremony organised by Israel and the local Jewish community."
Ankie and Andrei met at the national fencing academy in the Netherlands. He had come from Israel for further training as a fencing master and she was one of his students. They married in 1971. The following year, Andrei flew with Israel's Olympic team to Munich. Ankie took their seven-week-old baby daughter, Anouk, to her parents in the Netherlands and then joined Andrei.
"The Israeli athletes were so excited to be at the Olympics," she said. "I recall in particular how struck Andrei was by the openness of the Olympic Village. He made a point of speaking to athletes from Lebanon and shaking hands with them, and he was delighted when they reciprocated. He said that's what the Olympics were all about."
Spitzer and the other families have fought for justice for the past 40 years and were rejected by the IOC every time. In Montreal in 1976, they were told that 21 Arab countries would boycott the Games if there was an official commemoration. In Atlanta in 1996 they were told there was no protocol for including a memorial at the opening ceremony. Spitzer said: "In 1972, Israeli athletes went to the Olympics in peace and 11 of them came back in coffins. There's no protocol for that. This is discrimination against Israel and Jews. But we will carry on our campaign until the IOC marks the Olympics' darkest day appropriately."
Elsewhere, Barnet Council unanimously voted for a minute's silence to be held. Councillor Brian Gordon, who proposed the motion, said: "The fact that councillors spoke with one voice shows how out of touch the IOC is."
Meanwhile, the Chief Rabbi has composed a special prayer to mark the 40th anniversary of the massacre, to be recited in synagogues on 28 July 2012. Lord Sacks said: "For the Jewish people, Munich 1972 is more than history. It is an event forever etched into our collective memory. These athletes and coaches were targeted not just because of their nationality, but because they were Jews. I've composed a prayer to ensure it has a place on the map of Jewish memory."
The Zionist Federation has called on the community to hold personal commemorations.
It is asking people to stand in contemplation silence for one minute to remember the victims at 11am on 27 July.
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