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The Globe and Mail

Widow of 1972 Games is an outspoken advocate for a minute of silence

Ankie Spitzer – whose husband, fencing coach Andrei Spitzer, was killed during the attack on Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics – speaks to to reporters in London on Wednesday.


Ankie Spitzer has been searching for a minute – just one minute – for decades.

Ms. Spitzer's husband, the coach of the Israeli fencing team at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, was one of 11 athletes killed by the Palestinian terrorist group Black September.

At every Olympic Games since she lost her husband in the deadly hostage-taking, she's petitioned to have a minute of silence at the opening ceremonies for him and the others who were murdered. This week, on the 40th anniversary of the massacre, she flew to London to ask Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee, for formal recognition of the Munich tragedy. After another rejection, she's organized a rogue minute of silence in protest.

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At a news conference Wednesday, before their meeting with Mr. Rogge, Ms. Spitzer and Ilana Romano, the widow of Israeli boxer Yossef Romano, who was also killed in the attack, asked for those filling the seats at the opening ceremonies to stand and hold an impromptu moment of silence when Mr. Rogge speaks. Ms. Spitzer believes her efforts to have the Israeli athletes honoured have been rebuffed due to international politics.

"They came from the wrong country and the wrong religion," she said Wednesday, according to Associated Press.

Ms. Spitzer and Ms. Romano had a private, half-hour meeting with Mr. Rogge on Wednesday, when they made their case and presented him with an online petition in support of the minute of silence, which includes more than 100,000 names.

Mr. Rogge told Ms. Spitzer his "hands were tied," according to Donna Schmidt, the New York-based manager of the minute-of-silence campaign. Ms. Spitzer's response? "So were my husband's. And his feet, too."

The campaign has won support from Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and Minister of State for Amateur Sport Bal Gosal, as well as U.S. President Barack Obama, presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard. British Prime Minister David Cameron, however, has said a commemoration at the Guildhall in London for the Israelis killed was an appropriate way to honour them, according to the Independent.

The Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland has also organized a minute of silence for Friday at 11 a.m. U.K. time.

This four-decade mission for a moment of silence goes beyond honouring the dead, Ms. Spitzer explained in a YouTube video that accompanied her petition.

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"If you forget history," she said, "you are bound to repeat it."

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