Tales of triumph and tragedy

At Yad Vashem’s Moshe Mirilashvili Research Center, stories of heroic Jews serving in the Red Army are told side by side with stories of how the Nazis attempted to eradicate the Jews of the occupied.

By DAVID BRUMMER
December 6, 2018 18:35
Tales of triumph and tragedy

JEWISH SOLDIERS of the 23rd tank brigade. (Left to right) Mark Kovalev, Matvei Gampel, Sholem Shvartsman, Zalman Shpunt and Grigorii Gurevich, as appeared in the publication 'Eynikayt'. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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‘I can confirm today that Einsatzkommando 3 has achieved its goal of solving the ‘Jewish Problem’ in Lithuania. There are no more Jews in Lithuania, apart from working Jews and their families.” So begins a report from Karl Jaeger, a commander of Einsatzkommando 3, one of the German killing squads responsible for murdering Jews across the German-occupied Soviet Union during World War II. In a painstaking, matter-of-fact manner, Jaeger describes exactly why the Jews in Lithuania needed to be annihilated and how he did it.

Meanwhile, in Moscow, a Jewish writer is horrified by the Nazi atrocities and volunteers to fight for the Red Army. His dispatches are overwhelmingly popular among the Soviet brass, and detail the harrowingly infamous battles in Moscow, Stalingrad, the Kursk salient and Berlin. Vasilii (Iosif) Grossman was eventually promoted to the rank of lieutenant-colonel for his courageous dedication in covering the frontlines of war. Unlike the Jaeger report, Grossman’s story is a tale of heroism not often associated with the tragedy of the Jewish people during the Second World War.

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