Munich survivor recounts how he lives with anger
Olympic fencer shares his story about '72 terror attack

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

PEORIA - Dan Alon wasn't aware of the terrorist attack going on at the 1972 Munich Olympics until bullets ripped through a wall near his bed.

Palestinian terrorists had kidnapped several of his Israeli teammates and taken them to a suite next to his. When one of them tried to overpower a kidnapper, the athlete was shot, the bullets passing through the man's body and into the suite that housed Alon and three of his teammates.

The former Olympics fencer, now 61, told about 100 people at Bradley University on Monday night that he has lived with anger since the episode that ended with the deaths of 11 Israelis and five kidnappers - anger at the kidnappers, the lax security at the Olympics and at the Israeli government's refusal to release the details of its investigation into the event.

But he moved on, recently retiring from his job as general director of a plastics company in Tel Aviv, Israel. He coached fencing for several years, even returning to competitive fencing at age 46 to recapture the Israel national championship.

Alon kept his story to himself for more than 30 years, some of those spent dueling with nightmares. He decided to begin talking about it publicly after the movie "Munich" was released and he was asked by a Chabad Lubavitch group to speak about his experiences. He now speaks regularly about Munich and is planning to write a book.

Alon saw the movie "Munich" with other survivors and families of the victims.

The controversy over the film?

"It's not important," Alon said. "The message is the most important thing in the movie, to show what happened in Munich."

Alon said he still doesn't know why he chose Suite No. 2 out of five possibilities when he arrived at Olympic Village in August 1972. "I think somebody led me to go into entrance number two," he said.

He called the opening ceremonies "the greatest day of my life."

"I could never believe that one week later would be the blackest day of my life."

Alon advanced to the quarterfinals before losing to a British competitor.

Then, in the early hours of Sept. 5, 1972, he and his roommates were awakened by loud noises and assumed it was other athletes celebrating a victory. In reality, they had heard the sounds of members of the Black September terrorist group rounding up Israeli athletes. When gunfire rattled the suite with Alon and his roommates, they realized something else was up and saw an armed man outside the rooms and the body of one of their teammates on the pavement.

The only way for Alon and the others to escape was to creep down wood stairs barefoot and make a run for it one by one through the rear door. When Alon's turn came, he stopped.

"I turned around and I looked at the guy on the second floor," Alon told his audience. "He looked at me and I looked at him. He didn't do anything, just watched me. I was very curious to see what was going on on the other side."

He later found out from an interview of one of the surviving kidnappers that the terrorists had planned to come to Suite No. 2 later.

Michael Miller can be reached at 686-3106 or [email protected].

This event was cosponsored by:
Chabad of Peoria,
Jewish federation of Peoria
and Hillel.