Remembering David Horowitz (26): Massacre at Munich

Aaron Horowitz, Cantor Emeritus of the United Orthodox Synagogue in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. and father of UN correspondent David Horowitz, died on December 21, 1971 at the venerable age of 97. Born in 1874 in Dukor, Russia, he dedicated himself early to the study of theology and cantorial arts, receiving certifications in several fields of study. Moving to Malmo, Sweden in 1900, Cantor Horowitz was in contact with Theodor Herzl, founder of World Zionism, and was instrumental in establishing one of the first Zionist chapters in the Scandinavian country.

Cantor Horowitz and his family, including David Horowitz who was born in Malmo, immigrated to the United States in 1914.

Many of the world’s outstanding Rabbis and leaders, among them the renowned Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem M. Schneerson, paid high tribute in their messages of condolence to the life-long, devotional career of Cantor Aaron Horowitz.

1972 had arrived and the United Nations had a new Secretary-General. Austrian diplomat and politician Kurt Josef Waldheim became the fourth Secretary-General of the UN on January 1st, succeeding U Thant.

David Horowitz was back in Israel. The UN correspondent was honored on Sunday evening, January 23, by the Israeli World Union for the Propagation of Judaism. At a reception held at the Deborah Hotel in Tel Aviv, Mr. Horowitz was hailed as the founder, almost thirty years ago, of the global movement established to propagate the ideals of the Hebraic heritage on a universal scale.

The principal speaker at the reception was Dr. Wolfgang von Weisl, world-famous author, writer, and noted physician. In his address, Dr. von Weisl spoke of Mr. Horowitz’ tireless and unselfish work on behalf of the eternal Torah, and as the pathfinder of a movement that had assumed global dimensions.

Among the many tributes paid to David was one by Mr. Moshe Maur Schor, editor of the Israeli Romanian weekly Facla, who commended Horowitz for his role in exposing Bishop Valerian D. Trifa as a Nazi war criminal.

While in Israel, David had the rare opportunity to interview a survivor of the murderous Romanian Iron Guard pogrom that took place in Bucharest in January 1941.

Horowitz and Facla editor Moshe Maur Schor interviewed Rabbi Zvi Guttman, approaching his eighties, at his home in Tel Aviv in late January. During two dramatic hours, Rabbi Guttman, trembling and near tears, recounted in minute detail the unspeakable horrors he, his family, and thousands of other Jews in Romania had experienced during those tragic and horrifying three days of the bitter freezing month of January 1941.

The Guttmans were one of the most prominent families in Bucharest where the Rabbi served as the spiritual leader of the Jewish community in the city. The painful details described in the interview, which included Rabbi Guttman’s account of witnessing his two sons slain at his side, were published in the February 1972 issue of the United Israel Bulletin.

During his visit in Israel, David participated in the second annual conference of the World Federation of Jewish Journalists and also attended the opening of the Zionist Congress.

Meanwhile in the Middle East, New Egyptian President Anwar Sadat inherited Gamal Nasser’s determination to insure the recovery of the Arab territories lost in the 1967 war.

He announced that Egypt would be willing to implement a peace treaty with Israel if Israel fully withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula and from all other Arab territories taken in 1967. Israel rejected Sadat’s initiative, insisting that any return of Arab lands would have to take place after the Arab states had made peace with Israel, not as a precondition for peace.

In the summer of 1972, Sadat expelled thousands of Soviet advisors from the country and began reforming the Egyptian army for a renewed confrontation with Israel.

1972 was the year of the Summer Olympic Games in Munich with the Olympics returning to Germany for the first time since 1936.

The world was still rife with political unrest. The Vietnam War raged on, racial tensions in the U.S. persisted, and violence continued in the Middle East. German President Gustav Heinemann welcomed the Olympics “as a milestone on the road to a new way of life with the aim of realizing peaceful coexistence among peoples.” Such an elusive ideal.

On the morning of September 5, with six days left in the Games, the worst tragedy in Olympic history took place. Eight Arab terrorists stormed into the Olympic village and raided the apartment building that housed the Israeli contingent. Two Israeli athletes were killed and nine more taken as hostages. The Palestinian terrorist group known as Black September demanded the release of over 200 Palestinians serving time in Israeli jails along with two German held terrorists.

In the end, 17 people died during the Black September attack: Six Israeli coaches, five Israeli athletes, five of the eight terrorists, and one West German policeman.

There were hundreds of journalists from all over the world covering the 1972 Olympics, so the Black September assault and the murder of the Israeli athletes was, in fact, the very first time that a terror attack was reported and broadcast, in real time, across the globe.

One of the five Israeli athletes to narrowly escape the attack was Shaul Paul Ladany and perhaps he could be called the ultimate survivor. Ladany was an Israeli racewalker and two-time Olympian. He set and still holds the world record in the 50-mile walk and the Israeli national record in the 50-kilometer walk.

As an eight year old in 1944, he was captured by the Nazis, along with his parents, and shipped to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Many in his family were killed. One of the few survivors, he was taken to Israel in December 1948 just after Israel had become a nation state.

World record holder and Munich massacre survivor Shaul Ladany shown here with his many awards and trophies.

The holder of 28 Israeli national titles and two world records, Ladany returned to the 1972 Olympics in Munich. He wore a Star of David on his warm-up jersey, explaining that he wanted to show the Germans that a Jew had survived. When locals congratulated him on his fluent German, he responded: “I learned it well when I spent a year at Bergen Belsen.”

Shaul Ladany achieved an incredibly accomplished career. He held a B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and his Ph.D. in Business Administration from Columbia University, followed by postdoctoral research at Tel Aviv University.

For over three decades he was a Professor of Industrial Engineering and Management at Ben Gurion University of the Negev where he was formerly Chairman of the Department and is now emeritus professor. Author of over a dozen scholarly books and 110 scientific articles, he holds U.S. patents for eight mechanical designs and also speaks nine languages.

Speaking of the Munich massacre even today, Ladany contends: “It’s with me all the time, and I remember every detail.” He visits the graves of his murdered teammates in Tel Aviv every year on the 6th of September.

In the American Presidential election held on November 7, 1972, Republican President Richard M. Nixon was elected to a second term defeating Democrat George McGovern in one of the largest landslide victories in U.S. history.

On December 11, Apollo 17 touched down on the moon. This was the final mission of NASA’s Apollo program, the enterprise that landed the first humans on the moon. The scientific endeavors of Apollo 17 were the culmination of a massive program that had begun in 1963 following the successes of the Mercury Program.

Marking mankind’s last moon visit, the Apollo 17 astronauts left behind a plaque that read: “Here man completed his first exploration of the Moon, December 1972 A.D. May the spirit of peace in which we came be reflected in the lives of all mankind.”

Copy of original Truman memorandum accepting the new Jewish State.

Former President Harry S. Truman died on December 26, 1972 at the age of 88. He was the 33rd President of the United States from 1945 until 1953. On May 14, 1948, President Truman recognized the State of Israel eleven minutes after it declared itself a nation.

David Horowitz completed a busy and event-filled year by addressing a meeting of the European Affairs Committee of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith at the New York headquarters of the League. “The Jewish Image at the United Nations” was the topic of his detailed report of how Israel had fared in the world organization.

He closed by describing how the 27th Session of the United Nations General Assembly held in November had been overshadowed by the murder of the Israeli athletes in the Munich Olympic tragedy.

With no progress toward peace, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat continued to warn of war with Israel. U.S. intelligence and Israeli analysts remained skeptical about his repeated threats. In the coming months, however, the inevitable would happen and trigger another major turning point in America’s relations with Middle Eastern states.

 

Ralph Buntyn is executive vice president and associate editor of United Israel World Union. A historian and researcher, his many articles and essays have appeared in various media outlets.

This post is the twenty-sixth in the ongoing series “Remembering David Horowitz.” For the complete archive see here.

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