Munich Families Still Mourn, 40 Years Later

Relatives Keep Memories of Slain Israeli Athletes Alive

By Nathan Jeffay and Naomi Zeveloff

Published July 23, 2012, issue of July 27, 2012.
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“They died on Olympic ground in the context of competing in the Olympics. The fact that the Olympic Committee is not remembering them as its children is an antithesis [of the Olympic spirit],” she said.

The State of Israel, which will hold a memorial ceremony in London, has continued to honor the memory of the Munich 11, she said, as has the Israeli public. But for Romano, the campaign is part of a promise she made to her children, ages 6 years, 4 years and 6 months at the time of the massacre. “They asked, ‘We’ll never see Daddy again?’ and I said ‘Yes’ and told them the real story. I promised them that their father’s memory will never be lost and we’ll tell the story of their father and his friends forever. After all these years, I stand on my promise.”

In her private life, she has delivered on the pledge. Her whole family, including her daughters and eight grandchildren, ranging in age from 5 to 18, gather at her husband’s grave on the yahrzeit and on Israel’s Memorial Day. When he was 3, the youngest grandson said: “I don’t understand. We always go to Grandpa, but he never comes.”

David Mark Berger’s family has also spoken about the incident publicly, dedicating a statue at a Cleveland-area Jewish community center in their son’s honor and naming the weight room at Shaker Heights High School after him. But when it came to discussing the Munich massacre at home, the conversations came slowly. “We didn’t really talk about it that much,” said his sister, Barbara Berger, who was 22 at the time of his death. “It was something that made my parents uncomfortable.”

The summer before the Munich Olympics, Barbara Berger visited her brother in Tel Aviv, where they rode his motorcycle and cooked together, getting to know each other as adults for the first time. Her parents became aware of his death when NBC sportscaster Jim McKay delivered the news on national television.

Barbara Berger’s 29-year-old daughter, Dalit Gulak Wolfe, said that she and her brother, David Gulak are both named after their fallen uncle, and that they learned about their Olympian namesake from their mother and their grandparents. They stressed David Berger’s accomplishments instead of his death, Gulak Wolfe said.

Her grandfather, a doctor, filled his office with his grandson’s medals and various diplomas. He had a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Tulane University, a master’s degree in business administration and a law degree from Columbia.


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