“One Day in September,” Winner of The 2000 Oscar for Best Documentary Feature, Reveals the Untold Story Behind the Massacre of 11 Israelis at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich

in Arts, News Releases
September 1st, 2000

Contact: Mark Toth, | mtoth@bu.edu

In September of 1972, eight Palestinian terrorists from the Black September Movement invaded the Israeli housing compound at the Olympic Village of the Summer Games in Munich, Germany, killing two of the athletes and taking the other nine hostage. A gripping, tension-filled account of the ’72 Olympics, the feature-length documentary “One Day in September” sheds new light on how a tragic series of errors in judgement led to the final brutal massacre at a German airport. Could this tragedy have been avoided?

This year’s Academy Award winner for Best Documentary Feature, “One Day in September,” traces the story of the Olympic events from the initial hostage-taking, through the fruitless 24-hour negotiation process to the final horrifying hours. Produced by six-time Academy Award winner Arthur Cohn and directed by Kevin MacDonald, the film is narrated by Academy Award-winning actor Michael Douglas.

Two and a half years in the making and 28 years since the tragedy, “One Day in September” graphically portrays, for the first time ever, a behind-the-scenes story of the Munich events. Remarkably, the lone surviving Palestinian terrorist, Jarnil Al Gashey, who has been in hiding for more than a quarter century in Africa, agreed to be interviewed for this film, and he provides the first authentic, first-person point of view of an Arab participant. The film offers a balanced account, featuring interviews with the Israeli victims’ families, high-ranking German officials, and members of Israel’s Mossad. Also included in the documentary is archival footage gathered from a worldwide search, as well as footage featuring the voices and images of major media figures such as Peter Jennings and Olympics television anchor Jim McKay.

When the eight Palestinian terrorists invaded the Israeli housing compound at the Olympic Village, their intent was to force the release of political prisoners being held in Israel in exchange for the athletes. Israeli Prime Minster Golda Meir refused to release the prisoners, calling the terrorists’ action blackmail of the worst kind, while affirming that it was Israel’s policy not to react to such threats.

The athletes and terrorists were subsequently put on a bus to Fuerstenfeldbruck, a German airbase, where they were led to believe a plane would fly them out of Germany. Shortly after their arrival at the airport, chaos ensued. The streets were clogged with curiosity seekers and the call for armored vehicles came much too late, preventing authorities from arriving at the scene on time. The German authorities assigned just five sharpshooters, none of whom had radio contact to follow the eight terrorists.

At the last moment, the Germans abandoned a plan that Prime Minister Meir considered “brilliant.” Gunfire erupted as the German rescue team confronted the terrorists, and in the bloody aftermath all remaining nine Israeli athletes, five Palestinian terrorists, and one policeman were killed.

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