1.5 million Jewish soldiers fought with the allies to defeat Hitler
ANDREW ROBERTS’ MAGNIFICENT BOOK “THE STORM OF WAR” DETAILS THE ENORMOUS MILITARY CONTRIBUTION OF THE SOVIETS TO DEFEATING THE NAZIS. OF COURSE, THEY THEN WENT ON TO ENSLAVE EASTERN EUROPE, MEDDLE IN AFRICA, CUBA, ASIA AND CAUSE MILLIONS OF DEATHS…..RSK
May 9 is Victory Day, the day of the Nazis’ capitulation to the Soviet Union that ended World War II. In contrast to other significant dates in Israel, this is one we share with other nations who fought to defeat the darkest regime in human history.
In descriptions of World War II, it is hard to find information about the million and a half Jewish soldiers (women, too) who were in the Allied armies. In a certain sense, this was the largest Jewish army in history, who fought the most evil enemy. These soldiers formed the silver platter on which the Jewish state was given to later generations.
In recent years more attention has been given to this topic. The Israeli government is establishing a museum for the Jewish fighters in World War II in Latrun, recognizing that we should raise the banner for one of the greatest chapters of our people’s bravery. The heroism of Jewish soldiers was unique: While most of those fighting the Nazis were fighting for values such as freedom, Jewish soldiers were fighting for the very existence of their people. One third of the Jewish soldiers, about half a million, fought with the Red Army. Many served in commanding positions and more than 160,000 Jewish soldiers received medals for bravery. They participated in the liberation of concentration and death camps, where they witnessed firsthand the horrors the Nazis perpetuated. Two hundred thousand Jewish soldiers in the Red Army fell in battle; this is about 80 percent of the Jewish soldiers killed overall in the Allied forces.
During the greatest test for the Jewish people, Jewish soldiers fought side by side with Russian soldiers. Twenty-five million people from the former Soviet Union died in the horrific war. The world only officially recognized the Red Army’s contribution to the Allied victory and to ending the Holocaust in 2005, when the U.N. General Assembly chose Jan. 27, the day the Red Army liberated Auschwitz in 1945, as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. This resolution, initiated by Israeli Foreign Ministry employee Ron Adam, was unanimously ratified by the General Assembly. A Jewish officer, Anatoli Shapiro, commanded the Red Army during the liberation of Auschwitz.
Recognition of the Red Army’s contribution to victory over the Nazis and saving the Jewish people came only late and in stages. The Cold War and the Soviet Union’s anti-Israel stance for decades made the discussion difficult. It is a good thing that there has been a process of gradual historical justice. Part of this was the initiative by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman to establish a national memorial for the Red Army’s victory over Nazi Germany, established jointly by the United Israel Appeal and the municipality of Netanya. We expect Russian President Vladimir Putin to visit the site at some point. Relations with Russia are based on the heritage of the past and a look toward the future. Russia is one of Israel’s important trading partners. About half a million Russians visit Israel annually, bringing the nations closer, and polls show that Russians are sympathetic to Israel. We share a joint interest in a stable Middle East and the struggle against terror. The human bridge of more than one million Russian speakers in Israel helps develop relationships between the countries and adds another dimension to relations.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry is committed to Holocaust remembrance and leads the movement opposing relativism that aims to reduce people’s dealing with the Holocaust. Also on this issue, we see eye to eye with the Russian Federation.
It is also symbolic that Israel’s Holocaust Memorial Day is scheduled close to Victory Day. Indeed, it was that victory that led to the end of the Holocaust. We must not forget the lesson: The Jewish people did not go like lambs to the slaughter. They knew very well how to fight against those who sought to destroy them, defending themselves and becoming victorious.
The writer is the head of the Euro-Asia Department in the Foreign Ministry.