Munich massacre survivor: sport can unite Jews, Arabs

Jerusalem, Aug 9 (EFE).- Former Olympic swimmer Shlomit Nir, who survived a Palestinian militant attack on the Israeli delegation at the 1972 Munich Olympics, believes the power of sport can bring Jews and Arabs closer together.

Speaking to Efe ahead of the 50th anniversary of the attack next month, Nir remembers the exact time and her initial reaction to the massacre that changed her life and killed 11 of her teammates in Germany.

In the early hours of September 5, eight Palestinian militants armed with rifles, pistols and grenades entered the apartment of the male Israeli male Olympic team members, killing a referee and a coach and taking nine hostages.

“I woke up at 7 o’clock. I went out of my room and a woman who was taking care (of us) there called me and asked me to look around to the window and to see that soldiers are already sitting very close to keep us (safe) because of course they didn’t know was happening or if there would be another terror attack,” she tells Efe at her apartment in northern Tel Aviv.

She spent the rest of the day with the survivors on the ninth floor of an Olympic Village, from where she saw the deployment of German security forces and witnessed the negotiation between the Black September militants and police.

It was not until after 10pm that she saw her compatriots leave the building blindfolded and get on the helicopters, in which they would be shot at and charred hours later during the failed German rescue operation.

“But we still had this hope that maybe they would survive and a unit from Israel, an army unit would come to save them alive, all the hostages. But the Germans did not allow Israel to come or to send any unit of soldiers to do something,” she adds.

The swimmer returned the subsequent day with the rest of the Israeli delegation and 11 coffins with the remains of her teammates.

It was Nir’s second and last Olympic appearance; later, she got married, studied and volunteered for years helping wounded soldiers on the battlefield.

In 1994 she began working at the sports ministry, where for 25 years she led programs promoting women’s inclusion in professional sports.

Currently retired, she leads an NGO that promotes the interaction of young Jewish and Arab women in Israel through sports.

For several years, she has given talks about her athletic career and the Munich legacy in schools, on military bases and in different types of institutions.

“I’ve been trying all these years that I’ve been working to bring Arab women with Jewish women together, to play together, and then to sit and talk and know each other and open their minds that it is possible to live together,” she says. EFE


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