Jewish veterans of the Red Army commemorate Victory in Europe Day

Alongside the veterans, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Aliyah and Integration Minister Pnina Tamano Shata, as well as Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion were all present to honor the former fighters.

Some five hundred Jewish Israeli veterans of the Soviet Red Army, their children and grandchildren, IDF soldiers and Israeli youth movement members turned out in Jerusalem on Sunday to mark the Soviet and allied victory over Nazi Germany in the Second World War. (photo credit: NOGA MALSA)
Some five hundred Jewish Israeli veterans of the Soviet Red Army, their children and grandchildren, IDF soldiers and Israeli youth movement members turned out in Jerusalem on Sunday to mark the Soviet and allied victory over Nazi Germany in the Second World War.
(photo credit: NOGA MALSA)
Some 500 Jewish Israeli veterans of the Soviet Red Army, their children and grandchildren, IDF soldiers and Israeli youth movement members gathered in Jerusalem on Sunday to mark the Soviet and Allied victory over Nazi Germany in the World War II.
 Alongside the veterans, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Aliyah and Integration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata and Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion were present to honor the former fighters who helped liberate Europe from the Nazis.
Alongside the veterans, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Aliyah and Integration Minister Pnina Tamano Shata, as well as Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion were all present to honor the former fighters. (Credit: Noga Malsa)Alongside the veterans, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Aliyah and Integration Minister Pnina Tamano Shata, as well as Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion were all present to honor the former fighters. (Credit: Noga Malsa)
The US, Britain and other Western allies declared Victory in Europe Day on May 8, 1945. But countries from the former Soviet Union mark the event on May 9, since hostilities ceased at 11 p.m. Central European Time, which was already May 9 in the Soviet Union.
Red Army veterans living in Israel today number 3,072. Most of them came directly from Russia during the 1990s, with most settling in Haifa and Jerusalem. Others immigrated from Ukraine, the US, Britain, France, South Africa, Australia, Denmark and elsewhere. Almost all are over 85 years old.
“We have the honor, but first of all the merit, to be with the veteran fighters who fought in World War II,” Tamano-Shata said at the celebration in Jerusalem’s First Station complex on Sunday afternoon. “We must reward them, ensure that they grow old in dignity, in well-being, and educate the children of Israel about their heroism. They are inseparable partners in the victory of good over evil and a central part of the story of the People of Israel.”

Alongside the veterans, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Aliyah and Integration Minister Pnina Tamano Shata, as well as Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion were all present to honor the former fighters. (Credit: Noga Malsa)Alongside the veterans, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Aliyah and Integration Minister Pnina Tamano Shata, as well as Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion were all present to honor the former fighters. (Credit: Noga Malsa)
Gantz noted the difficulties of the last year during the COVID-19 crisis, in particular for the elderly. The country was “obligated to ensure that you [veterans] live the rest of your lives in comfort, and we must also ensure that coming generations will know of the legacy of your heroism,” he said.
Veterans Association chairman Avraham Grinzaid said veterans mark the day as a joyous occasion, but “we have tears in our eyes when we remember the millions of our family members who were taken from us with great cruelty.
“Unfortunately, we see that not all the lessons of the past have been learned,” he said. “It is important today to say: Even today, antisemitism is raising its head around the world, and unfortunately, many leaders are silent, just as they were 80 years ago… Eighty years ago, the extermination of the Jewish people began. I ask you, do not let this happen again.”
On Friday, Jewish Agency chairman Isaac Herzog spoke by phone with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and said the Jewish people owed “a debt of gratitude to the Red Army” for its role in defeating the Nazis and liberating the Nazi death camps.
The veterans of the Red Army “deserve honor and respect all year round and not just on the official holiday,” he said, adding that they “preserve among us the memory of the heroic war against the Nazis and their collaborators.”
Herzog cited the rise in global antisemitism in recent years, especially on social media, and said there was a concern that real-world, physical attacks could spike once the world overcomes COVID-19.
According to Herzog’s office, he and Lavrov “agreed on the need to prevent history repeating itself, to fight Holocaust denial and the whitewashing of Nazi crimes.
They also agreed on the need to continue resolutely “the fight against antisemitism in all its forms, old and new.”