Monday, 10 February 2014

München 72 (4 Stars)

This film was made in 2012 and released to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the Munich Olympic Games. These were probably the most memorable Olympic Games ever. Germany allowed Jewish athletes to be slaughtered in a police operation that was bungled from start to finish.

On September 5th 1972 a group of armed Palestinians climbed over a fence into the Olympic village. They had keys to the building being used by the Israeli team because the Germans had allowed a Moslem to be a cleaning lady. Two Israelis were killed and nine were taken as hostages. The Palestinians demanded the release of 130 prisoners held in Israeli jails in exchange for the hostages, but the Israeli government refused to negotiate, leaving Germany to deal with the problem themselves. What followed could be described as a comedy, if it weren't so tragic. The local police weren't equipped to deal with terrorism, but calls for the German army to take over were rejected because it was "against the constitution". When the police began to station sharpshooters on the roof the Palestinians saw them because the police activity was being broadcast live on television. Finally the German authorities agreed to prepare a plane at a local airport for the terrorists to leave the country with their hostages. The plan was for policemen to pose as pilots and stewards on the plane and overpower the terrorists, but at the last moment the police refused to obey orders and abandoned the plane on the runway. When the terrorists arrived at the airport and found the plane deserted the police sharpshooters delayed too long and gave the terrorists time to kill all the hostages.

The only good thing that resulted was that Germany learnt from its mistakes. An elite police force, GSG-9, was created and trained specifically to deal with heavily armed terrorist attacks. This was the force that was sent into Somalia in 1977 to free the hostages being held at the airport in Mogadishu, an operation that succeeded without the harm of a single hostage.

This film has been criticised by critics in Germany who say that it's not as good as "21 Hours at Munich", an American film made in 1976 dealing with the same incident. I know that film well, and I wouldn't say that it's necessarily better, it's just very different. The American film tells the story very factually, whereas the German film gives insight into the people who were involved, the hostages and their relatives. They're both good films in different ways.

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