before the 2016 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony in Rio,
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the games
celebrate the best of humanity
and appealed for an Olympic truce, calling on
all warring parties to lay down their weapons
during the two weeks of sporting achievement.
Methinks the oddsmakers consider that possibility a long shot.
To find out why I’m such a cynic -
at least when it comes to nations beating their swords into ploughshares
and the lion lying down with the lamb -
read the post below
Even this cynic chooses to celebrate the best of humanity.
'Cuz that's you, pals.
* * * * * * * *
Oh, how well I remember the 1972 Summer Olympic Games in Munich. Not the competitions or award ceremonies, but the grainy TV footage that showed hooded Palestinian terrorists from Black September on the balcony attached to Munich Olympic Building 31, where the Israeli delegations and athletes were housed.
When the Israeli hostages were eventually taken by their captors to the Munich airport, there was no live TV coverage. No video of the stand-off with German police. Then, after 14 straight hours on air, sportscaster Jim McKay got the news through his earpiece. “They have now said that there were 11 hostages,” he told the world. “Two were killed in their rooms. Nine others were killed at the airport tonight. They’re all gone.”
Before the opening of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, the International Olympic Committee officially, and for the first time, named and honored the eleven murdered Israeli athletes:
Moshe Weinberg. Yossef Romano. Yossef Gutfreund.
David Berger. Ze’ev Friedman. Amitzur Shapira. Eliezer Halfin.
Mark Slavin. Andre Spitzer. Kehat Shorr. Yakov Springer.
Springer, born in Poland in the early 1920s, survived the Holocaust and participated in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. After World War II, he moved to Israel, became a wrestling coach and accompanied the 1972 Israeli team to Munich.
Ah, yes. The Appointment in Samarra . . .
But 1972 was not the first year marked by the murders of Jewish Olympic athletes:
Alfred Flatow (1869-1942): Medal winner at the 1896 Athens Olympics,
Flatow - at age 73 - was sent to the Theresienstadt ghetto where he died, two months later, of starvation.
Ilja Szrajbman (?-1943): Polish national champion swimmer in the 1936 Berlin Games, died in the Warsaw ghetto.
János Garay (1889-1944): Hungarian Jewish fencer won medals at the 1924 Paris Olympics and 1928 Amsterdam Games. Died in Mauthausen, 1944.
Dr. Oskar Gerde (1883-1944): Gold medal winner in team saber at the 1908 London Olympics and 1912 Stockholm Games. Died in Mauthausen, 1944.
Gustav Flatow (1875-1945): German-Jewish gymnast claimed medals at the 1896 Athens Olympics. In 1940, aged 70, Flatow was deported to Theresienstadt where he perished.
Roman Kantor (1912-1943): One of Poland's leading fencers, competed at the Olympics in Berlin. Deported to Majdanek in 1942, he died there in 1943.
Janusz Kusocin'ski (1907-1940): World record-setter in the 10,000 meters at the 1932 Los Angeles Games. A Polish national hero, he was executed - at age 33 - by Nazis in the Palmiry Forest on June 21, 1940.
And, so. While we root for U.S. gymnast Aly Raisman to grab gold in Rio, let’s also remember the four Jewish women who competed with the Dutch gymnastics team in the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam:
Helena Nordheim (second from left, front row): She, her husband and 10-year old daughter were killed by poison gas at Sobibor in Poland in 1943.
Anna Polak (third from left, front row): Murdered, together and her 6-year old daughter, at Sobibor in 1943.
Estella Agsterribe (fourth from left, front row): Gassed, along with her 6-year old daughter and 2-year old son, in 1943 at Auschwitz.
Alternate Judikeje Simons (far right, front row): She, her son and daughter, were killed at Sobibor.
Elka de Levi (far right, back row): The only Jew on the women's team who survived.
Jewish gymnast Mozes Jacobs and Jewish gymnastics trainer Gerrit Kleerekoper - members of the 1928 Dutch men's team - also perished at Sobibor in July of 1943.
Gone. They’re all gone. In the most monstrous ways.
We Remember Them
by Sylvan Kamens and Rabbi Jack Riemer
At the rising sun and at its going down; We remember them.
At the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter; We remember them.
At the opening of the buds and in the rebirth of spring; We remember them.
At the blueness of the skies and in the warmth of summer; We remember them.
At the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of the autumn; We remember them.
At the beginning of the year and when it ends; We remember them.
As long as we live, they too will live, for they are now a part of us as We remember them.
copyright Ozzie Nogg 2016
photograph of 1928 Dutch Women's Gymnastic Team courtesy United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington DC