David Berger Memorial
The National Memorial is a sculpture that was created to honor the memory of David Berger, an American/Israeli citizen who was one of the 11 Israeli athletes murdered at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Germany. The David Berger National Memorial is the only memorial in the United States commemorating the 1972 Olympic terrorism.
David Berger, a Shaker Heights native, graduated from Tulane University and received a law degree and an MBA from Columbia University. He emigrated to Israel in 1970 and was among the first in Israel to teach sports, including weightlifting, to the disabled. Berger was 28 years old and a member of the Israeli weightlifting team at the time of his death. David Berger is buried in Mayfield Cemetery in Cleveland Heights, OH.
The sculpture was created by the late Cleveland sculptor David E. Davis. It was commissioned and paid for by a group of eight families, all personal friends of David's parents, Dr. Benjamin and Dorothy Berger.
Through the efforts of former Ohio Senator Howard Metzenbaum, who was also a longtime friend of David's father, Congress authorized the David Berger National Memorial on March 5, 1980 (Public Law 96-199). Recognized by the U.S. Department of the Interior as a National Historic Landmark, the sculpture is affiliated with the National Park Service.
The David Berger National Memorial is nearly 14' high, 11' wide, and weighs 6000 pounds. It is made of Cor-TenTM steel, a type of steel alloy which oxidizes naturally over time to yield a rich rust coloring and granular texture. The sculpture depicts the five Olympic rings broken in half, symbolizing the interruption and cancellation of the Munich games by the tragic events, and the 11 segments on which the rings rest represent each athlete whose life was taken. One of the segments is slightly different from the rest to symbolize the unique events in David's life that led him to the Israel Olympic Team and to his death. But there is an upward motion in the broken rings to suggest the peaceful intent of the Olympics, a search for understanding, and hope for the future.
The David Berger National Memorial's first home was on the grounds of the Jewish Community Center in Cleveland Heights. When the JCC closed that facility in 2005, arrangements were made to store and restore the sculpture at the McKay Lodge Fine Arts Conservation Laboratory, in Oberlin, Ohio. While in storage the sculpture was cleaned of all existing corrosion and an application of a corrosion inhibitor was applied. In addition, one section of the sculpture required welding reinforcement.
Funding for the projects was provided by a number of sources including, Dr. Benjamin and Mrs. Dorothy Berger, the Bernice and David E. Davis Family Philanthropic Fund of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, the Righteous Persons Foundation and the Mandel JCC.