Munich 1972

The Attack on the Israeli Olympic Team – History and Memory

On September 5, 1972, eight members of the Palestinian terrorist organization Black September attacked the Israeli men's team during the Summer Olympics in Munich. Eleven Israeli athletes, one policeman and five hostage-takers died in the attack and during the course of a failed rescue attempt by Bavarian police. The events in the Olympic Village and at the airfield in Fürstenfeldbruck have been the subject of films, TV documentaries, books, media reports and scholarly accounts. But there are still many unanswered questions about what happened back then, about its antecedents and its consequences.

The Federal Ministry of the Interior and Community has commissioned the Leibniz Institute for Contemporary History (IfZ) to close this gap in cooperation and coordination with a German-Israeli historical commission. The IfZ has many years of expertise in international terrorism research and the history of transnational relations, as well as a tight network in the contemporary history research and archive landscape. Among other things, it maintains intensive relations with research institutions and researchers in Israel. A research team is therefore going to be established at the IfZ. Its task is to analyze in detail the immediate prehistory and the attack as well as the actions of German security authorities and politicians, the consequences of the attack for German Middle East policy, and its aftermath on the level of domestic politics and commemoration culture. The overall responsibility for the project at the IfZ lies in the hands of Director Prof. Dr. Andreas Wirsching and Prof. Dr. Johannes Hürter, who was already in charge of the large IfZ project "Democratic State and Terrorist Challenge".

The German-Israeli Commission of Historians, with which the Institute's project will be in close exchange, consists of eight internationally renowned historians:

  • Prof. Dr. Ofer Ashkenazi (Associate Professor of History and the Director of the Richard Koebner Minerva Center for German History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
  • Prof. Dr. Michael Brenner (Professor of Jewish History and Culture, University of Munich and Director of Center for Israel Studies, American University, Washington, D.C.)
  • Prof. Dr. Shlomo Shpiro (Director of the Europa Institute and Paterson Chair in Security and Intelligence at the Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel)
  • Prof. Dr. Margit Szöllösi-Janze (Ret. Professor for Contemporary History at the University of Munich)
  • Prof. Dr. Petra Terhoeven (Professor for European Cultural and Contemporary History, Göttingen University)
  • Prof. Dr. Shulamit Volkov (Professor emerita for Modern European History at Tel Aviv University)
  • Prof. Dr. Klaus Weinhauer (Professor for Modern History at Bielefeld University)
  • Prof. Dr. Christopher Young (Professor for German Studies at Cambridge University)

In addition, other experts will be involved in the work and invited to the project's planned meetings. The research results will be communicated transparently to the public.

The team of the research unit at the IfZ will include Dr. Lutz Kreller, Dr. Adrian Hänni, Dominik Aufleger, Tina Angerer and Julia Reichl.


Munich 1972: Divided Remembrance?
The Terrorist Attack on the Israeli Olympic Team in the German and Israeli Cultures of Remembrance

6th September 2023, 7:00 PM

This year, 5 and 6 September marked the 51th anniversary of the attack by Palestinian terrorists on the Israeli team at the Summer Olympics in Munich. Eleven Israeli athletes, one police officer and five of the terrorists were killed during the taking of hostages and the Bavarian police’s botched attempt to free them. The attack abruptly shattered the carefully orchestrated image of the “cheerful Games”.

The panel discussion addressed the widely diverging approaches of the Federal Republic of Germany and Israel to dealing with this incident. While the attack quickly gained an important place in Israel’s culture of remembrance, Germany has only developed a self-critical form of publicly remembering the victims quite recently.

The public panel discussion was part of the first conference of the research project to examine and reappraise the attack on the Israeli Olympic team, which took place in Munich from 5 to 7 September 2023. Initiated by the Federal Ministry of the Interior and Community (BMI), the project is being conducted by an international commission of historians and the Leibniz Institute for Contemporary History (IfZ). Its mission is to investigate unresolved issues as well as the background and aftermath of the attack.

The event was recorded and is available at (also with a translation into Hebrew).

Photo Credit:

  • Header: Bundesarchiv, Bild 145 Bild-00006457/ Fotograf(in): Wegmann, Ludwig
  • Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-L0906-0205 / Fotograf(in): Kohls, Ulrich
  • Amos Ben Gershom / Government Press Office, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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