So much for Germany's reputation for cold and sometimes ruthless efficiency.
When eight Palestinian terrorists from the Black September movement swarmed unchallenged into the Israeli housing compound at the Olympic Village in Munich in 1972, the Germans blew it.
They blew it big-time.
And 11 Israeli athletes were massacred by the terrorists.
It's hard to walk away from seeing "One Day in September" and think anything else.
"One Day in September" won this year's Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. Produced by Arthur Cohn (winner of six Oscars), directed by Kevin Macdonald, and narrated by actor Michael Douglas, "One Day" traces the events of Sept. 5, 1972, from the initial hostage-taking, through 24 hours of negotiations and into the final ghastly ending.
For most of us, it's the first time we've known what really happened that day in Munich.
The 90-minute film pieces together gripping footage shot during the event (including dramatic live narrative by ABC TV sportscaster Jim McKay and reporter Peter Jennings) with interviews with high-ranking German and Israeli officials.
Director Macdonald also managed to track down and interview Jamil Al Gashey, the only one of the eight Palestinian hostage-takers still alive today. Five of his fellow terrorists were killed that night and two others were hunted and killed within months by Israel's Mossad intelligence agency. Gashey - who is now in hiding in Africa says in the film that he is proud of what he did, and that his motive was to draw the world's attention to the Palestinian cause.
For those who have forgotten that day, or who were not yet born, here's a capsule summary: During their invasion of the compound, the terrorists killed two members of the Israeli Olympic squad, then demanded the release of more than 200 prisoners held by Israel. Prime Minister Golda Meier refused, in keeping with Israel's policy on terrorist blackmail. After nearly 24 hours, Germany agreed to provide transportation to a nearby airfield and a plane to fly the terrorists and their hostages to an Arab redoubt. German officials stationed snipers at the airfield, but they were not in radio contact with each other. Five German policemen disguised as crewmembers on the plane decided at the last minute to walk away, declaring the mission too dangerous. Germans at the airport "forgot" to call for armored vehicles to support the assault on the terrorists.
And within months of the tragedy, German authorities colluded with the Palestinians to fake a plane hijacking in order to give themselves an excuse for letting the three remaining terrorists go free.
"One Day in September" is gripping, chilling and revelatory viewing - all the more so because it took 28 years for the real story to be
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