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Munich 1972 Tragedy, Terror, and Triumph at the Olympic Games
978-0-7425-6739-9 • Hardback
April 2012 • $29.95 • (£18.95)
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978-0-7425-6741-2 • eBook
April 2012 • $28.99 • (£17.95)

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Pages: 396
Size: 6 1/2 x 9 1/4
By David Clay Large
 
History | Europe / Germany
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Set against the backdrop of the turbulent late 1960s and early 1970s, this compelling book provides the first comprehensive history of the 1972 Munich Olympic Games, notorious for the abduction of Israeli Olympians by Palestinian terrorists and the hostages’ tragic deaths after a botched rescue mission by the German police. Drawing on a wealth of newly available sources from the time, eminent historian David Clay Large explores the 1972 festival in all its ramifications. He interweaves the political drama surrounding the Games with the athletic spectacle in the arena of play, itself hardly free of controversy. Writing with flair and an eye for telling detail, Large brings to life the stories of the indelible characters who epitomized the Games. Key figures range from the city itself, the visionaries who brought the Games to Munich against all odds, and of course to the athletes themselves, obscure and famous alike. With the Olympic movement in constant danger of terrorist disruption, and with the fortieth anniversary of the 1972 tragedy upon us in 2012, the Munich story is more timely than ever.
David Clay Large is professor of history at Montana State University. He has also taught at Berkeley, Smith College, and Yale University. He is the author of several acclaimed histories, including Nazi Games: The Olympics of 1936, Where Ghosts Walked: Munich’s Road to the Third Reich, and Berlin. An avid athlete, Large, when not writing, teaching, or parenting (he has a nine-year-old daughter), can often be found running the roads of Bozeman, Montana, and San Francisco, California, the two places he calls home.
Introduction
Chapter 1: The Decision for Munich
Chapter 2: “We Just Slid Into It”: Planning and Building for Munich ’72
Chapter 3: On the Eve of the Games
Chapter 4: Let the Games Begin
Chapter 5: Invasion of the Sanctuary
Chapter 6: Battlefield Fürstenfeldbruck
Chapter 7: The Games Go On
Epilogue
David Clay Large's Munich 1972 is an almost ideal matching of historian and subject. Mr. Large has written one excellent book about Munich under the Nazis and another on the Berlin Olympics of 1936. Moreover, he was in Munich in 1972. In this superb chronicle, Mr. Large evokes the febrile atmosphere of that time and place, as the sporting festivities that were supposed to celebrate Germany's return to the fellowship of democratic nations turned into a nightmare: the ideology-driven murder of Jews on German soil. . . . Many Germans still regard the Munich massacre as the darkest day in the history of the Federal Republic, yet to date Germany has not commemorated the victims properly. With the captivating Munich 1972, Mr. Large offers a memorial of sorts—and a reminder that, long before 9/11, a war on Western civilization, emanating from the Middle East, had already been declared.
Wall Street Journal


Outstanding. . . . [A] meticulous reconstruction of the tragedy. . . . Large has turned up fascinating material in archival research. . . . Munich 1972 is a massively researched, eminently readable history. Although his prose is calm and his approach evenhanded, for most readers his book will evoke astonishment, exasperation, and, finally, grief.
Jewish Review of Books


To commemorate the 40th anniversary of the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, West Germany—where outstanding performances by U.S. swimmer Mark Spitz and USSR gymnast Olga Korbut were overshadowed by the slaying of 11 Israeli team members by Palestinian gunmen—Montana State University history professor Large (Nazi Games: The Olympics of 1936) provides a densely detailed look at what he calls 'history's first globally televised act of terrorism.' Using newly released sources, he chronologically explores the political, social, cultural, and athletic dimensions of the Games of the XX Olympiad, focusing on the hostage crisis that began on Sept. 5 when members of the Black September organization broke into the Olympic Village's Israeli living quarters, claimed hostages, and demanded the release of 236 Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails. The subsequent standoff and botched rescue attempt resulted in the deaths of all the captives and most of their captors. Though the deadly stalemate takes up the bulk of Large's book, and will therefore make this comprehensive take on the games appeal primarily to historians, the author doesn't forget his sports fans. While the tragedy unfolded, the games continued on, and Large devotes considerable attention to the many athletic feats and conflicts.
Publishers Weekly


Large (history, Montana State Univ.; Nazi Games: The Olympics of 1936), a specialist on German history, here addresses the many factors that resulted in the lax security at the 1972 Olympics, thus facilitating the tragic assault on the Israeli athletes by the Palestinian organization Black September. Large explores numerous themes in his analysis, including economic costs, international race relations, international and domestic security threats, and pressures of the games themselves. Rather than losing the narrative with so many themes, he writes with such depth and detail that each element melds seamlessly with the others. VERDICT While seemingly a daunting and complex subject, this is an encompassing, detailed, and engaging account for serious readers not only of the Olympics themselves and the Munich 1972 games, but of shifting international pressures and the effects that historical and social conflicts can apply to even declared apolitical events. Large’s emotions come through in his judgment of lapses and of the terrorism we have confronted over the years. Those interested in the multiple shifting global influences on sports and politics will find this a valuable addition to their collections.

Library Journal


David Clay Large has written a captivating history of the 1972 Munich Olympics. Munich 1972 is both terrific sporting history and a gripping chronicle of the Black September terror attack that took the lives of eleven Israeli Olympians. It is a tale of human frailty, incompetence, and unintended consequences. It will surely stand as the definitive history of a turning point in the Olympic saga.
Kai Bird, Pulitzer Prize–winning biographer and author of Crossing Mandelbaum Gate


This fluent, measured, and thorough book is a worthy successor to David Large's fine earlier study of the Nazi Games in Berlin. Once more, Large uncovers surprising twists in an ultimately tragic story and adeptly skewers the pretensions and hypocrisies of the modern Olympic movement.
Peter Hayes, Northwestern University


Read this book! Munich 1972 is a sad, important, morally complicated story with many unexpected details and shocking revelations. What makes it a page-turner, as well as an elemental bit of 20th-century history, is that its author is a real writer—sometimes caustic, always humane—as well as an eminent historian of modern Germany. David Large, the wry professor, has done it again.
David Quammen, author of The Song of the Dodo


A gripping account of the ‘Olympics of Terror,’ when the games went on, despite the tragedy that arguably signaled the new challenges and dangers of our world. Well-researched and crafted, Munich 1972 is an excellent, haunting book, one that matters even more now.
John Merriman, Yale University


Superb book. . . . Large, an American scholar of contemporary Germany, adds to his impressive stack of books with a gripping, finely researched chronicle of those Games set against the backdrop of the tumultuous politics of the 1960s and 1970s.
The National


This timely book reminds readers that politics have always shaped the Olympic Games. A respected authority on the Third Reich, Large explains how the XX Olympic Games in Munich marked a turning point in Olympic and sports history generally. He thoroughly details the murder of Israeli athletes by pro-Palestine Black September terrorists. The author's description is especially valuable because he places the attack within the larger contexts of contemporary international tensions (Cold War, Vietnam War protests, African decolonization, Middle Eastern conflicts) and West Germany's attempt to distance itself from the so-called ‘Nazi Olympics’ of 1936 Berlin. Munich 1972 also describes the first superexpensive Olympic Games, complete with artist competitions, extravagant ceremonies, and huge building projects. Large pays great attention to the competition itself and writes vibrantly about many sports. The book therefore nicely blends the work of scholar and fan. . . . This thoughtful, readable piece on a major event of the modern era will appeal to many people. Summing Up: Highly recommended.
CHOICE


Munich 1972: Tragedy, Terror, and Triumph at the Olympic Games is by far the most comprehensive treatment of the Munich tragedy. Just about every detail, personality, and emotion is given both a caustic as well as humane treatment. Large’s exquisite and eloquent literary style makes this book a very reader friendly book, a page-turner from beginning to end; a joy to read, yet a somber and sober literary experience to behold and remember.

The Jewish Star


This is a detailed account of the Games, focusing on the lax security measures that lead to the attack on Israeli athletes. Large provides a complete recounting of the games, from the decision of the International Olympic Committee to select Munich as a site to the closing ceremony. A German history specialist at Montana State University, Large’s analysis is all encompassing including both domestic and international terror information. This highly detailed account is for anyone wanting an inside look at what goes on behind the scenes at the Olympics.

Pekin Daily Times


The most scarring Olympics are covered in the exceedingly good Munich 1972: Tragedy, Terror, and Triumph at the Olympic Games. David Clay Large, a Montana State University history professor, writes with bite, had access to new sources, and brings intense context.
Boston Globe


A detailed and well-written history of the Munich Olympics. The massacre naturally plays a central role but the book is much more comprehensive . . . as a chronicle of a problematic Olympic era where politics were central before, during, and after the Games. Large succeeds by focusing on the sporting events rather than politics, telling a compelling story from multiple perspectives. . . . His book will hold great appeal not only for those who remember the dramatic events of these Games, but also for those interested in Olympic history from an organizational, economic, and political perspective.
Idrottsforum.org


 
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