David Berger National Memorial

“They’re all gone.” 

With those sad and unexpected words, more than 1 billion people worldwide heard ABC Olympic Commentator Jim McKay report that 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team had been killed.

David Berger, an American weightlifter living in Israel, was one of those lost. David and his teammates shared two rooms in the Olympic Village in Munich, West Germany. Sometime during the night of September 4, 1972, eight members of the Palestinian group Black September scaled the fence surrounding the compound. The armed men took the athletes hostage and demanded that Israel release 236 jailed Palestinians. Israel refused to negotiate.

German police agreed to transport the terrorists and hostages to a nearby airport. As the helicopters landed, police fired on them. In the ensuing battle, the hostages were killed.

Unfortunately, global news organizations got the story wrong and claimed the terrorists had been killed and the hostages survived. Then came Jim McCay’s heartbreaking report. In Shaker Heights, Ohio, the parents of David Mark Berger learned their son was dead.

David had long dreamed of going to the Olympics. He trained and competed in weightlifting events throughout college, graduate school, and law school. After moving to Israel in the early 1970s, he represented his adopted country at the Asian games, and won a spot on the 1972 Israeli Olympic team. He was eliminated in an early round of competition in Munich, but David never really expected to win a medal. He simply relished the experience.

The David Berger National Memorial, located outside the Mandel Jewish Community Center in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, honors David and his teammates. The memorial features the five Olympic rings broken into eleven separate pieces, each representing one of the lost athletes. The rings form the shape of a wave, which David’s father says represents the hope that progress can survive tragedy.

David Berger National Memorial

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