'One Day in September'


"One Day in September" was published in 2000.
One Day in September offers a terrific overview of the terrorist attack in Munich on Sept. 5, 1972, and its aftermath.

One Day in September offers a terrific overview of the terrorist attack in Munich on Sept. 5, 1972, and its aftermath.

 

Simon Reeve's book, published in conjunction with the Oscar-winning documentary, provides vital information in its 250 pages (plus more than 30 pages of valuable endnotes). Reeve formerly wrote for London's Sunday Times before leaving to author books, mostly on terrorism (including The New Jackals: Ramzi Yousef, Osama bin Laden, and the Future of Terrorism, published three years before the Sept. 11 attacks).

 

Through good writing and organizing, Reeve makes the book an essential companion to the documentary. He delivers a main course of information after the documentary whets the appetite. He goes into more detail about every aspect of the day, including lots of context for the Black September attackers, the Israeli response to the attack, and the German government's cover-up of its failings.

 

He quotes many individuals who were part of the day's events, newspapers from the period, respected books on terrorism and Middle East affairs, and legal documents. Like the documentary, Reeve quotes Jamal Al-Gashey, the lone surviving Munich terrorist.

 

Also included are roughly 35 photos of the Israelis, their attackers, their families, German officials, and remarkable shots of the event itself.

 

Whereas the documentary essentially ends with the dreadful shootout at Fürstenfeldbruck airport, the book continues to include the mourning period of the families, Israel's counter-terrorist initiative referred to as "Operation Wrath of God," and an interesting chapter about the efforts of the victims' families—especially Ankie Spitzer—to hold the German government accountable for what happened on its soil.

 

Spitzer pumped the Germans for almost 20 years for information about what actually transpired during the attack.

 

"They kept saying to me that we have nothing," said Spitzer in the book. "And I couldn't believe it because the Germans are so thorough, I could not believe that they had nothing."

 

Finally, an anonymous German citizen with access to the information gave her a break in the case. The individual's illegal act of leaking information eventually gave the families what they knew existed: roughly 4,000 government files related to the Sept. 5 attack.

 

The chapter on Black September is also one of the book's strengths, for it's important to understand just who the Munich terrorists were and what they thought they were doing.

 

"It is impossible to comprehend either the anguish felt in Israel when Black September occupied 31 Connollystrasse or the desperation of the Munich attackers without understanding the tragic history of both sides," wrote Reeve.

 

Reeve goes back to the time of King David and charts a course through Roman conquest of Palestine, the founding and growth of Islam, the Crusades, Zionism and the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. Included in this brief but helpful history is an account of Black September's name and origin.

 

The concluding chapter is also distinctive, concentrating as it does on the families of those killed at Munich. Reeve notes that the slain men left 32 dependents, which included 14 orphans and seven widows.

 

Schlomit Romano, the daughter of slain Israeli weightlifter Yossef Romano, talked about her feelings for the attackers and their families.

 

"You have to understand, since I was little I was raised under the values of peace. Never for revenge. Never for hatred. Always for a better world without murderers," she said in the book.

 

Romano said she still wants those responsible, like Al-Gashey, to stand trial for their actions. And while Schlomit said she would like to befriend Al-Gashey's daughter, she doesn't feel the same way about the man himself.

 

"I'm not going to forgive," she said. "Never."

 

Survivors' comments are especially poignant given Operation Wrath of God, whereby Israel sought to eliminate its individual enemies through covert assassination squads. Reeve chronicles these efforts as well, one of which will be dramatized in Steven Spielberg's forthcoming film, "Munich."

 

That film, no doubt, will take millions of viewers back to perhaps the blackest day in sports, which Reeve's book handles amazingly well.

 

"Millions still remember the shock they felt seeing pictures of the first live televised terrorist attack in history," wrote Reeve. "It was as if the entire world was reading the same book."

 

Cliff Vaughn is culture editor for EthicsDaily.com.

 

Also read:

 

News: Title for Spielberg's Film Hopes to Quell Controversy

Movie Review: 'One Day in September'

Book Review: 'Vengeance: The True Story of an Israeli Counter-Terrorist Team'

Movie Review: 'Sword of Gideon'

News: Spielberg Making Film About 1972 Munich Attack

 

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