This sculpture in Tel Aviv, Israel, by Eli Ilan commemorates the 11 athletes, coaches, and referees killed by terrorists at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany. The names of the victims and the sport they represented appear behind the sculpture in both Latin and Hebrew script.

Photograph by Dr. Avishai Teicher, courtesy Wikimedia. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Download this file

  • On September 6, 1972, the Munich Massacre ended with the deaths of 11 Israeli athletes at the Summer Olympics in Munich, West Germany (now Germany).
    A day earlier, a faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) took members of the Israeli wrestling, weightlifting, shooting, fencing, and track teams hostage in their apartments in the Olympic Village. The terrorists demanded the release of Palestinian and other prisoners held in Israeli and German jails.
    Negotiations and rescue operations failed, and the crisis ended with all the athletes, one German police officer, and most of the terrorists dead after a rooftop shootout. American broadcaster Jim McKay famously announced the news: “Our worst fears have been realized tonight. They've now said that there were 11 hostages. Two were killed in their rooms yesterday morning, nine were killed at the airport tonight. They're all gone.”
    The Olympic community was devastated. Many Jewish athletes received heightened security details. Other Jewish athletes, including legendary American swimmer Mark Spitz, left Munich entirely during the crisis. The entire Israeli delegation immediately withdrew from the games. The International Olympic Committee refused to create a memorial to the slain athletes or commemorate their deaths with a moment of silence at the 2012 Olympics in London, England, the 40th anniversary of the attacks.
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    athlete Noun

    person who participates or competes in sporting events.

    broadcaster Noun

    person or organization who participates in television or radio communication.

    commemorate Verb

    to honor an event on a specific date.

    community Noun

    group of organisms or a social group interacting in a specific region under similar environmental conditions.

    crisis Noun

    event or situation leading to dramatic change.

    delegation Noun

    group chosen to represent a larger group or organization.

    demand Verb

    to ask for in an authoritative way.

    devastate Verb

    to destroy.

    entire Adjective


    faction Noun

    group within a larger group.

    fencing Noun

    individual or team sport where athletes practice attack and defense with bladed weapons (swords) to score points on an opponent's body.

    heighten Verb

    to increase, especially in height.

    hostage Noun

    person held as security until certain terms and conditions (such as payment of a ransom) are met.

    immediately Adverb

    at once or quickly.

    Jewish Adjective

    having to do with the religion or culture of people tracing their ancestry to the ancient Middle East and the spiritual leaders Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

    massacre Noun

    mass killing of large number of people.

    memorial adjective, noun

    something designed or written to preserve the memory of an event or person.

    negotiation Noun

    discussion or discourse leading to terms of an agreement.

    Olympic Village Noun

    residential facilities constructed by the host city for visiting athletes, trainers, and officials of the Olympics.

    Palestine Noun

    region in the Middle East now occupied by Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

    PLO Noun

    (Palestine Liberation Organization) organization recognized as the "sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people" by states with which it holds diplomatic relations.

    police Noun

    local, state, or national government organization for law enforcement.

    realize Verb

    to make real or call vividly to mind.

    rescue operation Noun

    planning and delivering aid to people in an emergency situation.

    security detail Noun

    team assigned to protect the safety of an individual or group.

    slain Adjective


    Summer Olympics Noun

    international sports competition held every four years in summer or early fall.

    terrorist Adjective

    having to do with the use of non-military violence and/or threats of violence to achieve or advocate political change.

    track adjective, noun

    individual or team (relay) foot races.

    weightlifting Noun

    individual sport where athletes compete to lift the most.

    wrestling Noun

    individual sport where athletes use their bodies to try to pin, or force their opponent's shoulders to the ground.