Yossef Gutfreund was born in Romania on Nov. 1, 1931. He was Israel’s only Class A wrestling referee. The 1972 Munich Olympics were the third in which he participated.
He attended medical school in Romania, with a goal of becoming a veterinarian. He was imprisoned for distributing Zionist propaganda, and left Romania at age 17 for Israel.
Gutfreund served in the Sinai War in 1956 and in the Six-Day War in 1967. Wounded while serving in Gaza, he refused to be evacuated until the cease-fire. He saved a group of Egyptian soldiers, lost and abandoned by their officers, by tending to their burns and giving them food and water.
Gutfreund, along with 10 members of the Israeli delegation to the 1972 Olympics, was taken hostage in the early morning of Sept. 5, 1972 by eight members of Black September, a Palestinian terrorist group. Gutfreund awoke when he heard the terrorists opening the door to the apartment where the Israelis slept. He threw his 6-foot, 6-inch, 290-pound frame against the door, barring the intruders for a few crucial minutes. His shouts woke both Tuvia Sokolsky and Shaul Ladany, allowing them to escape.
After the terrorists reached an agreement with German officials, the Israelis were led, ankle and wrist-bound to one another, to two helicopters that were flown to Fürstenfeldbruck, an airfield 12 miles from Munich. All the Israelis died during a botched rescue attempt that resulted in a two-hour gun battle between German officials and the terrorists.
Gutfreund translates to “good friend,” and the wrestler, who ran a small appliance shop in Jersusalem and left behind a wife and two daughters, was known as just that.
“His last act was typical of him,” his widow, Rachel has said. “He spent his whole life helping others.”