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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“There was never any hatred around it, and I think there easily could have been,” Gulak Wolfe said in a phone interview. “Instead, we talked about the great things David chose to do with his life.”

Benjamin Berger, David and Barbara’s father, gave his grandchildren a silver bracelet with a nameplate that belonged to his son. Gulak Wolfe, who played soccer and lacrosse during high school, kept it in her gym bag as a reminder that athletics are meant to bring people together rather than divide them. The unifying power of sports is a mantra for the Berger family, and it’s the reason they say the IOC should instate a moment of silence. “We feel it is important as the years go by,” Benjamin Berger said. “Otherwise, the 11 gave their lives for nothing. They could work a slight amount toward world peace. Athletes can always get along with other athletes, and the teams always got along.”

David Berger’s extended family will watch the games from Gulak Wolfe’s home in Brunswick, Maine. The family is always a “little bit on edge” watching the games, she said, waiting for some surprise recognition of the Munich 11.

Romano and Shahar will follow the games, too — Shahar from her living room in Tel Aviv, and Romano partly from London, which she is visiting for the Israeli-run commemoration ceremony, and partly from Tel Aviv.

Watching the games “opens up the wound every time afresh,” Romano said, but she does so out of a love for sports and in the belief that her husband would want her to follow them.

“I watch, and I’m very happy to see Israeli athletes take part, the fact that terror hasn’t stopped them and we continue,” Romano said.

Shahar said that she feels this same mixture of emotions, and that she also envisages her father. “When I see the opening ceremony, I always see my father walking as part of it.”

Nathan Jeffay reported from Jerusalem. Naomi Zeveloff reported from New York.

Contact Nathan Jeffay at jeffay@forward.com

Contact Naomi Zeveloff at zeveloff@forward.com or on Twitter @NaomiZeveloff


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