On April 21, nine greats from the athletic world will be inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, located at the Sufolk Y JCC in Commack. Among them is David Berger, a weightlifter of the Israeli Olympic team who fell victim to terrorists during the 1972 Munich games.
Berger was born in Cleveland, Ohio and moved to Tel Aviv, Israel in 1970, after completing his masters at Columbia University. After winning national medals for wrestling in 1965 and 1969 and earning a silver medal at the Asian Weightlifting Championships in 1971, he went on to represent Israel at the Munich Olympic Games. While there, he was one of 11 Israeli Olympians taken hostage and brutally killed by Palestinian terrorists.
On Sept. 5, 1972 Berger was taken captive along with other members of the Israeli delegation, by members the Palestinian terrorist group, Black September.
After a full day of negotiations, the terrorists and hostages, who had been tied up, were airlifted from the Olympic Village to an airbase outside of Munich, where the terrorists believed they would be flown to an Arab nation. Instead, the German police attempted to ambush the terrorists and free the hostages. However, the plan was not successful.
Berger died of smoke inhalation after one of the terrorists detonated a hand-grenade inside of the helicopter. The other victims in the helicopter died from machine gun fire after a two-hour gunfight between the terrorists and German police.
"Our worst fears have been realized tonight. They've now said that there were 11 hostages…they're all gone," ABC Olympic Commentator Jim McKay famously said that night.
David Berger’s body was returned to the United States on an Air Force jet personally ordered by President Richard Nixon. Berger is buried in his hometown of Cleveland.
Among the other nine honorees are Randy Grossman, former Pittsburgh Steeler tight end; Garrett Weber-Gale, multi-gold medalist in swimming at the 2008 Olympics; Steve Bilsky, basketball great at University of Pennsylvania and now the Athletic Director there and Bruce Cohen, Cornell lacrosse All-American.
The ceremony will be held at the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, 74 Hauppauge Road, Commack, New York, on Sunday morning, April 21, 2013 at 10:30 a.m.
Admission is open to the public, and it is $10 per person. Children 12 and younger and seniors are free. Signed sports memorabilia, provided by Mike Riccio Sports, will be available for sale the day of the inductions, and until April 28 at 5 p.m.