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Shaker Heights native David Berger, victim of 1972 Munich Olympics massacre, honored

On the 50th anniversary of the terrorist attack at the Munich Olympics, Shaker Heights native David Berger was honored along with his fellow Israeli athletes.

BEACHWOOD, Ohio — It's been 50 years since the massacre at the Munich Olympic games, when 11 members of the Israeli team were killed by Palestinian gunmen.

One of the victims was American-Israeli weightlifter, David Berger, who grew up in Shaker Heights.

The local Jewish community honored Berger and his fellow fallen athletes on Tuesday night, with a community-wide program at the Mandel Jewish Community Center in Beachwood.

"I think we're always going to be challenged with tragic and unfortunate events," said Traci Felder, Chief Development Officer at Mandel JCC. "But it gives us an opportunity to talk, bring communities together and really try to work on issues," she explained.

It was an attack that shocked the world, and unfolded on live television before a global audience of 900 million viewers, at a time before 24/7 cable news.

On September 5-6, 1972, eight heavily armed Palestinian extremists from the group Black September -- an affiliate of the Palestine Liberation Organization -- entered the Olympic Village in Munich, West Germany. Their plan was to hold Israeli athletes hostage, and demand the release of more than 230 Israeli-held prisoners.

The botched rescue mission ended with five of the hostage-takers killed, along with 11 athletes and coaches from Israel's Olympic team and a West German policeman. The remaining three terrorists were captured by police.

The Mandel JCC said Tuesday's program was designed to connect the community to the past and symbolize the center's desire for peace and hope for the future.

"As a community center, we feel as though this gives us an opportunity to bring together and call on people for peace, and continue to strive for a better today," said Felder.

On the campus of Mandel JCC, visitors will find the David Berger National Memorial, which is the country's smallest national park. The sculpture depicts the five Olympic rings broken in half, symbolizing the interruption and cancellation of the Munich games by the tragic events, and the 11 segments on which the rings rest represent each athlete whose life was taken. 

If you'd like to visit the memorial, or support the David Berger Memorial Endowment Fund, you can learn more here.

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