FUERSTENFELDBRUCK, Germany (AP) — Relatives of Israelis slain in an attack by Palestinian gunmen during the 1972 Olympics in Munich marked its 40th anniversary on Wednesday with Israeli and German officials at the air base where most of the 12 victims died, even as bitterness lingers over authorities' botched response.
German, Israeli and Bavarian flags were lowered to half-staff at the beginning of the ceremony at the Fuerstenfeldbruck air base, outside Munich, where the victims' relatives — joined by Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom — lit candles in their memory.
"Today 40 years ago, our lives changed forever," said Ankie Spitzer, the widow of fencing coach Andre Spitzer.
"For us, the families of the victims and for those of the 1972 Israeli Olympic delegation who were fortunate enough to escape the massacre, Munich and Germany will be forever connected to that darkest day in our lives," she said.
Before dawn on Sept. 5, 1972, eight members of a Palestinian terrorist group called Black September clambered over the unguarded fence of the Olympic village. They burst into the building where the Israeli team was staying, shooting dead wrestling coach Moshe Weinberg and weightlifter Yossi Romano.
Some Israeli athletes escaped through a back door but nine were seized. The captors demanded the release of more than 200 Palestinians held by Israel and two German left-wing extremists in German jails.
After a day of tense negotiations, the guerrillas and their hostages were allowed to leave aboard two helicopters for Fuerstenfeldbruck. The terrorists were promised a plane and safe passage to an Arab country.