The Munich petition that helped the world remember

By Jennifer Lipman, July 26, 2012
Ilana Romano with the petition

Ilana Romano with the petition

The chief executive of the Jewish Community Centre that launched the global petition for an official Olympic silence in memory of the Munich 11 has hailed the campaign for bringing the tragedy to the world's attention.

David Kirschtel, who runs the JCC Rockland in upstate New York, has been working with Ankie Spitzer – widow of murdered fencing coach Andre Spitzer – for several years.

Every year the JCC Maccabi Games feature a tribute to the Israeli sportsmen, who were killed during the 1972 Olympics by Black September Palestinian terrorists.

Concerned that the 40th anniversary of the Munich tragedy would go unmarked by the International Olympic Committee – as it has at every Games since – Mr Kirschtel and others, including petition chair Steve Gold, worked with Mrs Spitzer to start a campaign.

Their petition, which went live on April 12, has been backed by 107,000 people worldwide and gained support from politicians and prominent figures around the world, including Barack Obama.

Mrs Spitzer and Ilana Romano, whose husband Yossef was also murdered at Munich, presented the petition to IOC president Jacques Rogge in London last night, but it was to no avail.

The widows were told by Mr Rogge that no minute's silence would be held at the Opening Ceremony or elsewhere during the Games.

Speaking soon after he heard Mr Rogge's final decision, Mr Kirschtel expressed disappointment but said that it showed the IOC "for what they truly are – an organisation that does not truly understand the Olympics for what they are".

He said he was "proud of the world" for backing the petition and said that while they had not succeeded in their goal, the wider aim of reminding people about the Munich massacre and its legacy had been achieved.

"Their resolve is as strong as ever, they are not giving up," he said. "We all want to believe in miracles."

At the last count, people from 155 countries had signed the petition, while it has been covered by almost every major Western media outlet.

Last updated: 1:29pm, July 26 2012