William Collins Donahue: Munich’s Foiled History Lessons – An American Perspective





The writer is the chair of the Department of Germanic Languages & Literatures and a professor of German and Jewish Studies at Duke University.

My daughter and I recently toured Munich’s beautiful Olympic Park, the site of the brutal 1972 massacre of young Israeli athletes by the Palestinian terror group Black September.
 
The day we visited was idyllic: skateboarders careened off steeply-banked slopes; children roller-skated and bicycled, while others walked their dogs, jogged or just took in the gorgeous day.
 
Nearby, swimmers splashed in the great swimming hall, the impressive glass and steel structure designed to maximize the brilliant sunshine on a day like this. Later, we partook of kaffee and kuchen – coffee and cake – at a rotating restaurant atop one of Germany’s architectural wonders, a radio and TV tower built on pliable gravel that allows it to actually tilt in high winds, and in calmer weather simply offers the best view of the city.
 
In soaking this all in, not once was I, a scholar who has spent much of my career thinking and writing about contemporary Germany, reminded of the unspeakable attack.
 
As we near the 40th anniversary of the September 5, 1972 massacre of 11 Israeli athletes and coaches at the Munich Olympic Games, we are reminded not only of Germany’s failure to protect its guest athletes, but also of its attempt to become a “good” democracy in the American mold...


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