September 01, 2000

I WAS in a swimming pool when I heard terrorists had taken nine Israeli athletes hostage and were demanding the release of 200 Arab prisoners in return for their lives.

My life on September 5, 1972, was insanely remote from the horror of Olympic Village, Munich — yet I was living less than two miles away.

This is the seventh anniversary of the massacre — the seventh Olympic Games since Munich.

Today, I feel closer to the hostages than I do to the young entertainer, six weeks out of Israel and living like a film star.

The money I was spending was not mine, of course. I had arrived in Germany in June. Well known at home but unheard-of in Europe, I wanted to try out my powers outside the Holy Land.

I thought my psi ability might dissolve if I strayed too far.

Within days, I had been scooped up as a kind of society pet, by a rich man’s wife who loved to parade her personal paranormalist.

Let me call her Carla, since she is still alive. And I was her very personal paranormalist.

I remember she bought me a pair of patent leather boots that stretched up my thighs.

To make me appear the millionaire playboy, Carla would slip 1,000 deutschmark notes into the top of my boots, with a casual gesture.

At the Olympic Village, eight hooded ‘commandos’ under the Black September banner scaled the fence, armed with grenades and sub-machine guns. They killed two athletes who resisted as they stormed a dormitory on the Israeli national block, and took nine prisoners.

A twelfth, the wrestler Gad Tzabari, escaped by leaping through a window.

Carla drove a blue convertible Mercedes 280. This made up for the initial disappointment I had suffered on arriving in Germany.

A promoter had promised to park a Mercedes Pagoda for me at the airport. You were someone in 1972 if you drove a Pagoda. But the car wasn’t there.

Among the 200 Arab prisoners held by Israel, whose release Black September were demanding, was a Japanese murderer called Kozo Okamoto. He had opened fire on travellers at Tel Aviv’s Lod International Airport, in the luggage collection area, on May 30, 1972.

Of the 27 killed and 69 wounded, the majority were Catholic pilgrims from Puerto Rico.

Okamoto claimed at his trial he had hoped to die at Lod: ‘‘When we were young we were told that if we died we became stars in the sky. The revolution will go on and there will be many more stars.’’

Carla’s husband slept around. She gave me his cufflinks.

They were 22 carat gold, inlaid with diamonds, and I still have them.

The last time I wore them was to an awards ceremony in London, and my family travelled with me in our people-mover.

I lounged on the back row of the vehicle, looking at the diamonds glittering in the sulphur-yellow lamps along the motorway, reflecting that the jewels binding my shirt at the wrists had cost more than the car.

We were glued to the TV when the terrorists were granted helicopters by Chancellor Willi Brandt. The German leader had offered huge ransoms for the hostages and presented himself as a captive in their place.

The bargains were swept aside: helicopters, and free passage to Egypt, and freedom for the Arab 200 were the only demands.

But Egypt and Israel would not play along. Brandt believed he had no option — police marksmen opened fire on the helicopters.

I was playing table-tennis with my manager in Carla’s home when we broke the ball. I think I trod on it. The maid said there were more balls in the attic.

Rummaging through the roof-space, with a torch in one hand and a ping-pong-bat in the other, I found a photo album.

On the first page, I saw Carla with Hitler.

All the athletes were killed. One of the terrorists pulled the pin on a grenade. The helicopter burned like a small sun on the tarmac. We watched it on TV.

Carla was just a child, when the Fuhrer perched her on his knee.

Her daddy was an esteemed Nazi, and the Chancellor was a family friend.

It had all been 35 years earlier. I never told Carla I had seen the photograph.

I remember the cream leather in her blue Mercedes.

I remember King Hussein declared: ‘‘The vast majority of Arabs oppose the crime with all their hearts.’’

I remember Franz Beckenbauer lived in the mansion across the way.

I remember buying my first Gucci attache case. Hugging the leather. Smelling it.

Carrying it in a taxi, the day I halted a cable-car between mountain peaks.

And after 28 years, on the eve of the first Olympics of the 21st century, I remember 11 slaughtered heroes.

Uri Geller’s novels Dead Cold and Ella are published by Headline at £5.99. Mind Medicine is published by Element at £20.
Visit him at and e-mail him at [email protected]


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