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Munich ’72 attack survivors return with mixed feelings

February 24, 2012

MUNICH, Feb 24 — A survivor of the 1972 Munich Olympic attack felt like he was “floating on a cloud of love” as he returned to the southern German city this week with several other teammates to take part in a documentary marking the 40th anniversary.

The seven men, all members of the then Israeli Olympic team that was attacked by Palestinian gunmen on September 5, 1972, said their return to the city that marked their lives forever proved to be an experience of mixed emotions.

Former athletes (from left) Dan Alon, Shaul Paul Ladany, Gad Tsabary, Avraham Melamed, Henry Hershkovitz and Zelig Shtorch revisit Munich’s Olympic stadium, February 23, 2012. — Reuters picFormer athletes (from left) Dan Alon, Shaul Paul Ladany, Gad Tsabary, Avraham Melamed, Henry Hershkovitz and Zelig Shtorch revisit Munich’s Olympic stadium, February 23, 2012. — Reuters picThey were among those who managed to survive when Black September gunmen scaled the perimeter fence surrounding the Olympic athletes’ village, their weapons concealed in sports bags amid relaxed security.

Within 24 hours, 11 Israelis, five Palestinians and a German policeman were dead after a standoff and subsequent rescue effort erupted into gunfire.

“It’s a mixed feeling,” said 67-year-old former Olympic swimmer Avraham Melamed on his return to the Olympic Stadium yesterday.

“We’re here having a great time but it is based on the worst time,” said Melamed, who had escaped unharmed. “Our visit here is fantastic. I feel like I’m floating on a cloud of love, but the families and the victims, and the families of the victims share a completely different reality.”

This was his first visit to Germany since 1972. He now lives in the United States.

Former fencer Dan Alon retired from his sport immediately after the attacks on his teammates.

“I always feel good in Munich but I have some bad memories also,” Alon told reporters. “I don’t have anything against the Germans... I have only one thing to blame; it’s the terrorists, unfortunately.

“We hope that one day, it will be the end of terror around the world.”

Former walker Shaul Ladany said he had been enjoying his time in Munich, sharing the Olympic experience with other athletes until the day that changed the Games forever.

“I mingled everywhere” said Ladany, who is also a survivor of Nazi concentration camps, and visits the graves of his murdered teammates in Tel Aviv every year on September 6. “I had friends and I trained with the Canadians and the Americans I knew very well, the German walkers, and I trained with the Italian walkers.

“I moved freely everywhere.”

As the 40th anniversary of the attack nears, the documentary focuses not only on the deadly event itself, but also the fate of the survivors, including those who returned to Munich.

“When it happened that Bio Channel decided to make this movie, I was very, very excited,” Alon said. “At least now, after so many years, we can come together and tell the world everything that we know.”

The documentary is to be broadcast on The Biography Channel on July 7, less than two months before the actual anniversary. — Reuters

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