Andre Spitzer


Andre Spitzer

Andre Spitzer (1945 in RomaniaSeptember 6, 1972 at Fürstenfeldbruck air base, near Munich, West Germany), was a fencing master and coach of Israel's 1972 Summer Olympics team. He was one of 11 athletes and coaches taken hostage and subsequently killed by Palestinian extremists in the Munich massacre.

Early life

Spitzer was born in Romania, and emigrated to the Netherlands in 1964 to coach fencing with "Master Abraham" in The Hague. Most of his first year in the Netherlands he stayed with the Smitsloo family. He and one of his students, Ankie, were married in 1971. They moved to Israel, where Spitzer helped found the national fencing academy. Their daughter Anouk was born a few months before the Olympic Games.

Spitzer, though only 27, was Israel's top fencing coach. Spitzer was chief fencing instructor at the Orde Wingate Physical Education Institute, Israel's top institution for sports instruction. [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,906385,00.html?internalid=ACA]

Munich Olympics

The Spitzers went to Munich with the rest of the Israeli team, but young Anouk was left in the Netherlands, in the care of her grandparents.

Ankie Spitzer recalled her husband's idealism and attitude towards the Olympics:

(While strolling in the Olympic Village)... he spotted members of the Lebanese team, and told (me) he was going to go and say hello to them... I said to him, "Are you out of your mind? They're from Lebanon!" Israel was in a state of war with Lebanon at the time. "Ankie," Andre said calmly, "that's exactly what the Olympics are all about. Here I can go to them, I can talk to them, I can ask them how they are. That's exactly what the Olympics are all about." So he went... towards this Lebanese team, and... he asked them "How were your results? I'm from Israel and how did it go?" And to my amazement, I saw that the (Lebanese) responded and they shook hands with him and they talked to him and they asked him about his results. I'll never forget, when he turned around and came back towards me with this huge smile on his face. "You see!" said Andre excitedly. "This is what I was dreaming about. I knew it was going to happen!" (Reeve 2001, pgs. 52-53)

Midway through the Olympics, the Spitzers were summoned to the Netherlands - their daughter had been hospitalized with an incessant bout of crying. After they arrived, they were told by the doctors that everything was fine and that Andre could rejoin his teammates at the Olympics. Andre missed his train, but his wife drove him at breakneck speed to the station in Eindhoven, where he boarded the train without a ticket.

Terrorist Attack, and Killing of Spitzer

Spitzer arrived in Munich about 4 hours before the terrorists broke into the Israeli quarters, killed coach Moshe Weinberg and weightlifter Yossef Romano, and took Spitzer and 8 of his teammates hostage.

Spitzer was seen once during the hostage crisis, standing at a window in a white tank top and his hands tied in front of him, talking to the negotiators. At one point, when Spitzer tried to give the negotiators some information that the terrorists didn't want them to have, one of the terrorists clubbed Spitzer in the head with the butt of an AK-47 assault rifle and pulled him away from the window. That was the last time most people saw Spitzer alive.

After 20 hours of tense negotiations, the hostages and terrorists were flown by helicopter to Fürstenfeldbruck airbase where, the terrorists believed, they would be flown by jet to a friendly Arab nation. Instead, the Bavarian border patrol and Munich police attempted an ill-prepared ambush/rescue operation. After a fierce two-hour gunfight, Spitzer watched helplessly as four of his teammates were shot, then incinerated when a grenade was detonated inside their helicopter. Seconds later, Spitzer and four more of his teammates were fatally shot by the terrorists. Five of the terrorists and a Munich police brigadier were also killed in the gunfight.

Aftermath

Spitzer was buried alongside teammates Amitzur Shapira, Kehat Shorr, Eliezer Halfin, and Mark Slavin at Kiryat Shaul Cemetery in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Ankie Spitzer, who remarried and is now known as Ankie Rekhess-Spitzer, led the fight to get the German government to admit their culpability in the failed rescue of Andre and the others. In 2003, a financial settlement was reached between the German government and the families of the Munich victims. Today she is a correspondent in Israel for Dutch television.

Links

* [http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/features/flashbacks/munich/after_the_nightmare/ Sports Illustrated article]
* [http://www.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/europe/08/31/schuster.column/index.html CNN 2005 article]

References

*Reeve, Simon (New York, 2001) "One Day in September: the full story of the 1972 Munich Olympic massacre and Israeli revenge operation 'Wrath of God"'. (ISBN 1-55970-547-7)


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