Munich '72 attack survivors return with mixed feelings

Thu Feb 23, 2012 4:02pm EST
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By Christine Soukenka

MUNICH, Germany (Reuters) - 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 team mates 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.

They 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 after returning to the Olympic Stadium on Thursday.

"We're here having a great time but it is based on the worst time. 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," said Melamed, who had escaped unharmed.

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 team mates.   Continued...

Former athletes Dan Alon, Shaul Paul Ladany, Gad Tsabary, Avraham Melamed, Henry Hershkovitz and Zelig Shtorch (L-R) of the Israeli Olympic team of 1972 are pictured in Munich's Olympic stadium February 23, 2012.

  REUTERS/Michaela Rehle