‘72 ‘Happy Games’ marred by terrorist attack

MUNICH, Germany — The 1972 Summer Olympics aimed to present a drastically different view of the country than the last summer games held in the Nazi-led country in 1936 and overseen by Adolf Hitler.

The 1972 games fell during the middle of the Cold War — Germany was divided and moving on following the end World War II nearly three decades earlier. The games were nicknamed the “Happy Games.” Olympic security guards were unarmed and police dogs were out of the question given that the Dachau concentration camp was only miles away from the site of the Olympics.

There were athletic highlights at the Olympics — swimmer Mark Spitz won seven gold medals — but any accomplishments were easily overshadowed by the tragedy. If Olympic officials wanted peace and harmony to serve as the games’ enduring image, they failed. Perhaps the most famous image of the games is that of a hooded-terrorist standing on the balcony of 31 Connolly Strasse.

Following the Olympics, the village was converted for residential use and is today home to about 10,000 people. The modern-looking structures earned the derogatory nickname “concrete citadel.”

The building at 31 Connolly Strasse is relatively anonymous, except for the small marker out front topped with stones — a Jewish tradition similar to leaving flowers on a grave. The marker includes the names of the 11 Israeli athletes killed during the 1972 games. The only sight to see is the exterior of a non-descript apartment building.

Residents seemingly come and go without worry or bother about the harrowing landmark that looms nearby. Surely, the events of Sept. 5, 1972, must remain in the back of their minds.

“Of course we all know what happened, but none of us knows exactly where the guys were murdered,” Sports Illustrated quoted an anonymous resident one of the apartments where the Israelis stayed as saying. “We don’t want to know. If we knew, it would make it very hard to live here.”

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Todd DeFeo loves to travel anywhere, anytime, taking pictures and notes. An award-winning reporter, Todd revels in the experience and the fact that every place has a story to tell. He is the owner of The DeFeo Groupe and also edits Express Telegraph and Railfanning.org.