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.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 3 of 4)

“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.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • “They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they’ve created a Hasid." What do you think of Hollywood's portrayal of Hasidic Jews?
  • “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90.” Hedy Epstein fled Nazi Germany in 1933 on a Kinderstransport.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.