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Munich survivor recounts ordeal

By : Eric Coker

On Aug. 26, 1972, Dan Alon entered the Olympic stadium in Munich, West Germany, with his Israeli teammates to a thunderous ovation.

“I was shaking and trembling from excitement and from the noise of 100,000 people and the sounds of Hava Nagila welcoming us,” Alon said. “I felt like I was entering the Roman Coliseum. It was one of the greatest days of my life.”

On Sept. 6, 1972, 11 of Alon’s teammates and coaches would be dead, the victims of a massacre by Palestinian terrorists.

“It was the bleakest day of my life,” he said. “My dream had become a nightmare.”
Alon spoke about his ordeal during the 13th Annual Pauline and Phillip Piaker Memorial Lecture on Oct. 30 at the Chabad Center for Jewish Student Life.

The former Israeli national fencing champion said the 2005 movie release of Steven Spielberg’s Munich inspired him to tell his story. Alon also is writing a book about the experience.

“I decided that whenever I have the opportunity, my plan will be to come and tell the story,” he said. “This is a piece of history — it is so important to try to prevent another event like this and to say never again.”

Alon had lost in the fencing competition, but was still enjoying the Olympic Games when he and a teammate in Apartment 2 of the Israeli complex were awakened by gunshots on Sept. 5, 1972. Members of the terror group Black September had entered apartments

1 and 3, taken hostages and killed a weightlifter and a wrestling coach.
Alon looked out his window and saw a terrorist tell a German police officer that they had hostages.

“We knew we were in a big mess and had to think about what to do,” Alon said. “We decided we would run away.”

One problem for Alon and his three remaining teammates at the complex was the noisy, wooden steps they would need to walk down. Any sudden noise would surely alert the one terrorist they had seen.

It took 20 minutes for the athletes to make their way down the stairs quietly, Alon said. They then ran, one at a time, away from the apartment complex.

“I remember I jumped over a fence and fell on the grass,” he said. “I turned around and looked at (a terrorist) with a machine gun. He was watching me and I was watching him for a few seconds. He didn’t shoot, so I decided to run 50 yards more where the German police were waiting for us.”

Alon and the others were helpless as they learned the fate of their teammates the next day: the Israeli hostages were murdered during an unsuccessful rescue attempt at an airport.

Alon quit fencing, but eventually helped his son become a national champion and even made a comeback himself, before concentrating on golf. The Israeli government never offered the survivors help or compensation, he said.

Six years ago, Alon had to spend the night in Munich on business. He decided to return, for the first time, to the Olympic apartment complex.

“I was standing again on the pavement in front of the building,” he said. “It was pitch dark, quiet, nobody there. I was thinking ‘Why did this happen? Why did I choose (apartment) No. 2?’ It is something I can’t explain.”

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Last Updated: 10/14/08