Yakov Springer

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Yakov Springer, an international weightlifting referee in Israel’s delegation to the 1972 Munich Olympics, was born in 1921 in Poland and grew up in Warsaw. During World War II, he lived with his family in the Kalish ghetto in Poland. At age 18, he fled to Russia, leaving behind his parents, sisters and a brother, all of whom perished in the Holocaust.

In 1946 he returned to Poland and started his studies at the Polish Academy of Sports. He met and married his wife, Rosa, in 1951. Upon graduation, he held a position in the Polish Ministry of Sports. He encountered much anti-Semitism professionally and in 1957, he made aliyah to Israel, along with his wife and two children.

In Israel, he taught physical education at the Bat Yam High School. He helped establish weight lifting as a national sport. He organized courses for judges and became an international judge himself, attending, among others, the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, although Israel was not invited to compete.

Early on Sept. 5, 1972, members of the Palestinian terrorist organization, Black September, took Springer hostage, along with other members of the Israeli delegation. Two Israelis were killed in the initial assault, while the remaining 9, including Springer were murdered at the Fürstenfeldbruck airfield during a two-hour gun battle between German police and the terrorists.

Springer had been participating in the Olympics since 1952. He was attending his fifth Olympiad in 1972, having participated in the games in Helsinki, Melbourne, Rome, and Tokyo previously. As an international judge, he could have resided outside the Olympic Village, but instead, chose to share apartments with the Israeli delegation.

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