Filming The Bloody Olympics - Munich 1972

Biblical Productions is involved in both historic and modern day films and documentaries. Using Israeli film locations, as well as footage from abroad and dramatic re-enactments, these films all bring history back to life and serve an important educational function.

This article details the truly fascinating story of the Munich Olympic Games, from the horror of the event itself to the gory, controversial aftermath.

Background

In 1972, under an atmosphere of global reconciliation, terrorist assassins infiltrated the Olympic Village in Munich, killing eleven athletes from the Israeli Olympic team.

Israeli secret agents from Mossad compiled a complex mission of retribution with the objective of terrorizing the terrorists. In the early 1970s their major target was an extremist Palestinian terrorist group known as Black September, who plotted violent terrorist action intended to raise publicity for the Palestinian cause.

The Munich Plot Unfolds

Once the capital of the Middle East, Beirut, Lebanon had become a refuge for guerilla insurgents, revolutionaries and terrorists. In January 1972, four Black September commanders held a secret meeting in a residential neighborhood.

Present there were;

- Abu Hiyad, Head of the PLO staff, 
- Mahmoud Joseph Najjer, number three in the PLO command, with links to Black September,
- Abu Daoud, an expert in explosive devices, 
- Ali Hassan Salameh a member of Black September, their expert on sabotage and assassination.

For a while now Mossad had been playing an international game of hide and seek with Hassan Salameh. He was a 32 year-old, self confident, playboy who was given the alias of ‘The Red Prince’ by Mossad.

In this meeting, the four leaders discussed the target of their next attack. They planned a spectacular and ambitious mission; the Olympic games in Munich. The operation would be bankrolled by Libya’s Colonel Gadhafi and was budgeted at $2 million.


Black September spared no expense to shock the entire world and humiliate Israel. Their overall aim was to bargain for the release of the Israeli hostages in exchange for their imprisoned comrades’ freedom.

Terror at the Olympics

The Munich Games began on August 26 1972. The eyes of the world were upon Germany, a nation desiring to move beyond its dark Nazi past as it hosted the ultimate celebration of mankind’s unity: The Olympic Games.

Twenty-eight Israeli athletes arrived full of optimism and hope. Walking around the stadium during the opening ceremony, they proudly represented the survival of the Jewish people and its re-acceptance into the family of nations.

On September 5th, Black September struck. At 4:40am, moments before dawn, a group of hooded figures entered the Olympic Village. They moved systematically inside the buildings, scanning hallway after hallway, in search of the Israeli team.

The gunmen made their approach to the door of apartment number 1 at 31 Connollystrasse. Behind the door, sound asleep, the athletes are unaware of the tragic events that were to follow.

Yossef Gutfreund, a 275 pound wrestling referee, working simultaneously as an Israeli Secret Agent. Awakened by a noise he quickly realized the terror which stood behind the door, pushed his body to the ground and prevented the door from opening. It held only for a very short time. Within minutes the insurgents had broken in, taking the five Israeli athletes hostages.

By dawn, Black September’s members had captured nine Israelis, killing one at the break-in and another as he tried to fight back. In a matter of minutes the terrorists had taken over the Israeli compound. Using the phone, they threatened the German authorities with a bloody massacre if they did not comply.

They demanded to be taken to the airport with their hostages and provided a typewritten list of no less than 234 Palestinian and German prisoners they demanded the release of. These included Ulrike Meinhof and Andreas Baader, the founders and leaders of the German-based Baader-Meinhoff gang.

Underestimating the terrorist operation, Munich’s Police gathered a group of volunteers. They tried to infiltrate the Israeli compound and take out the terrorists but their attempt failed. The German authorities had no choice but to allow the insurgents to move to Funstenfeldbruck Airport.

Two helicopters landed at a pre-designated spot and the hostages were ushered towards their new transport. German Police felt this was a perfect time to attack. Under-trained and Under-prepared, the police shots missed their targets, sending the terrorists running, firing everywhere and releasing a hand grenade. 
When the smoke cleared, the scale of the disaster was revealed; all nine Israeli hostages were dead. The Munich Olympic Games had become the platform for massacre. Yet more Jewish blood was spilled on German soil and the dream of reconciliation was shattered.

The Retribution Plan

In Israel, news of the massacre outraged Prime Minister Golda Meir. In her funeral commemoration for the murdered athletes she promised to, ".. fight a new front, far away, dangerous but vital for Israel." It was the death sentence for Black September.

She summoned Israel’s top security officials to a secret meeting. In this meeting they formed a team for a single purpose; to launch a campaign of assassinations against the terrorists responsible for the Munich Olympic massacre. The team was named Committee X.

General Aharon Yariv, director of Aman, Israel Military Intelligence Agency was assigned to lead Committee X. Yariv called on Zvi Zamir, the head of Mossad to execute the retribution plan. Under Committee X, Mossad compiled a special unit of agents tasked with hunting down and eliminating every person involved in the Munich attack, one by one. Israel was determined to settle the score.

In Tel Aviv, Mossad gathered information on the terror group responsible for the massacre. Their list of the condemned contained 35 names. Committee X produced a heavy file on Black September.

Personal dossiers on each of the terrorists were assembled. At the top of the hit list of twelve known terrorists was Ali Hassan Salameh. But the ‘Red Prince’ was evasive and had eluded Mossad before. This time they meant to eliminate him.

From their stations around the world, human intelligence sources provided Mossad with valuable data on Black September - its personnel, weapons and financing.

A veteran Mossad agent was chosen to command the assassination team. His name was Mike Harari, an intelligence agent for 20 years and reputed for extreme ferociousness. Harrari hand picked his team of assassins and set up his European command post in Paris. He traveled under the alias of French businessman, Edouard Laskie. Copying the terrorists’ set up in Europe, Harrari assigned separate targets to different teams, each of whom worked autonomously.

Mossad’s Revenge – An Effective Start

In October 1972 Harrari’s team descended on Rome. His first target was Abdel-Wael Zwaiter, a Palestinian working as a translator for the Libyan embassy in Rome. Zwaiter was personally involved in the logistic organization of the Munich operation. His resume of terrorist activities against Israel extended beyond the Olympics. 
On October 16 1972 at 10:30pm, Zwaiter returned home. Behind the door a shadowy figure awaited him. Twelve bullets were fired into his body and he died instantly. The Italian police found the shells to be ones from the berretta pistol; the weapon of choice of Mossad agents and the one which was to become their calling card.

Paris, December 1972. 175 Rue D’Alesi. A man posing as a French journalist made a call to Dr Mahmoud Hamshari. A member of the PLO in Paris, Hamshari was used to meeting with journalists from around the world. What he failed to conceive was that this journalist was a Mossad agent. While pretending to interview Hamshari, the agent surveilled his apartment. He met Hamshari’s French wife and his daughter and collected as much intelligence as he could.

The next day, the undercover agent observed Hamshari from across the street. He waited for Hamshari’s wife and daughter to leave the building before making a phone call. Hamshari answered the phone, which triggered the charge on a bomb. Recognizing Hamshari’s voice on the other end of the line, the agent transmitted a radio signal, blowing up a small but deadly charge of plastic explosives. Hamshari was severely wounded and later died from his wounds.

Nicosia, Cyprus, 3 weeks later. Abed Al-Chir, the PLO’s major contact with the KGB returned to his hotel room after meeting with the soviets. As he lay down on his bed a pressure bomb exploded under his bed, killing him instantly.

Black September frequently used European-born citizens as couriers, utilizing their freedom of movement between Europe’s capital cities and the Middle East. One such Black September Courier was a German citizen named Philip Vose.
Vose was a former Neo Nazi, lured by the Anti Israeli cause of Black September, he worked as a logistics and communications expert for the Palestinian Organization.

Mossad had been watching Vose for a long time, hoping that he would lead them to the terrorists he served. "I gave information to Palestinian people staying in Europe, I couriered money, brought weapons etc... everything the organization needed." said Vose.

Vose was a vital link for Mossad. The Surveillance paid off and unbeknown to him, he lead the Israeli agents in Europe right up Black September’s chain of command. Within months of the Munich massacre, Harari’s team, working undercover in Europe, had targeted almost every major figure in Black September.

Paris. April 6 1973. At the Cafe de la Paix, Law Professor Basel Al Kubaisi had just finished an early supper. He was closely observed. Walking home, he encountered two men. Without a word, the two fired a total of nine bullets, killing Al Kubaisi instantly. The French police could only guess from the berretta shells found at the scene that this was the work of Mossad.

Beirut, five days later. On the evening of April 11, 1973, a combined task force of Israeli military and intelligence agents the houses along the beach. Named ‘Operation Spring of Youth’, forty Israeli commandos stormed their target: the Black September headquarters and the Red Prince. The commandos launched a devastating attack, completely destroying the headquarters.

Three members of Black September were killed in the attack; Mohammed Yusif Najjar, number three in the PLO chain of command, Black September’s leader, Kemal Adwan and Kamal Nasser, a spokesman for the PLO. Two hours after the assault, the commando forces escaped by rubber boats.

With the elimination of the Beirut Headquarters, Ali Hassan Salameh became the highest ranking leader of Black September and Mossad’s hit list became significantly shorter.

The next day, in his rented room in Athens, another Munich conspirator heard of the Beirut raid. Mussa Abu Ziad rushed out to buy a newspaper. Meanwhile, four kilos of plastic explosives were planted under his bed. Minutes later he was dead.

A Case of Mistaken Identity

By mid 1973, only three names on Mossad’s list were still at large. At the top of the list, still evading the Israeli surveillance, was Hassan-Slamef, the Red Prince.

For Harari, catching Salameh became an obsession, while some call for a cessation in the killings, Harrari is even more determined to hit every name on his list.

Norway, July 1973. Pressed by Harrari to provide results in the Red Prince front, Mossad Agents received a tip from a Black September informer, the hunt for Salameh took them to the city of Lillehammer. Harrari traveled to Norway to command the operation himself.

The agents quickly located their target leaving a local theater, accompanied by a blonde woman. The man’s features match those of Salameh and his attraction to blonde women fits the profile composed by Mossad.

The Agents wasted little time. They ambushed the man, shooting him at close range, killing him on the spot. Later they were horrified to discover that they had killed the wrong man.

Ahmed Bousheiki, an innocent Moroccan waiter was shot dead in broad daylight in front of his pregnant Norwegian wife. The Norwegian police arrested six Mossad Operatives tied to the Lillehammer shooting. They were sentenced to long term imprisonment. Harrari barely managed to escape.


The failure exposed Mossad’s actions in Europe. Harrari was called back to Israel and was immediately relieved of his duties. The operational disaster in Norway sent shock waves around the international community, placing Israel in an extremely tight spot.

Mossad was ordered to slow down the path of assassinations but the Red Prince remained on their list. In fact, resources were ed towards his elimination but Mossad were told that they had to work slowly. The Agency could not withstand another fiasco.

For six more years, Ali Hassan Salameh cleverly evaded the Israeli Secret Agents in Europe. He lead a luxurious life with the salary of a high ranking PLO activist and a new Lebanese wife, the 1971 Miss Universe.

By 1979 Salameh and his wife had settled down in Beirut, although he continued to eye other women. His libido was to be his soft spot.

Erika Chambers, an agent sent by Mossad, casually met up with Salmeh. Her attractive appearance dazzled him and he took the bait. They had a passionate affair during which Chambers closely observed Salameh, recording his daily routine.

The agents rented a car and wired its chassis, roof and door panels with explosives. They parked the car along the route the Red Prince used to travel to his office every morning. The car exploded as the Red Prince passed; the explosion left no chance for the elusive terrorist. Finally, Harrari proved triumpaht; the mastermind behind the Munich massacre, the Red Prince, was dead.

Striking Back at Terror

Twenty years after the Munich massacre twelve of the terrorists are dead, one killed by the PLO, ten assassinated by Mossad and one living at large, somewhere in Africa.

Crossing a moral line, Mossad managed to strike fear in their targets, using their own techniques, the Israeli Agency became a vengeful yet effective force in the international battle against terrorism.

Making Film Documentaries in Israel

Documentaries such as the Munich Massacre story are a specialty of Biblical Productions. We are experienced at both recommending and gaining access to experts, specific contacts and historical figures. We also have expert knowledge of a vast range of historical archives which can be used in your film production. We also have the ability to gain you permits for filming at key locations in Israel.


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