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The Jews of the Red Army

Veterans live in Israel, struggle with poverty

Adam Chandler
May 06, 2013
Soviet Jewish Veteran Shalom Skopes. (Oded Balilty/AP.)
Soviet Jewish Veteran Shalom Skopes. (Oded Balilty/AP.)

Today award-winning Vox Tablet contributor Daniel Estrin has an impressive and tough story from Jerusalem about the Jewish veterans of the Red Army.

About 1.5 million Jews fought in Allied armies, including 500,000 in the Red Army, 550,000 in the American army, 100,000 in the Polish army and 30,000 in the British army, according to Israel’s Holocaust museum Yad Vashem.

Some of those who fought in the Red Army served in the highest levels of command. About 200,000 Soviet Jewish soldiers fell on the battlefield or into German captivity. Those who survived built families and careers in the Soviet Union, until the Communist regime collapsed and many of them ended up in Israel.

They formed a veterans’ association, opening 50 chapters across the country. Today, most of them are nearly 90 years old, but they gather regularly for lectures and concerts. Some sing in the 42 veterans’ choirs nationwide.

According to Estrin, many of the elderly veterans who outlasted both World War II and the fall of the Soviet Union are now dealing with financial troubles and live in poverty. There also seems to be a greater historical disconnect between the veterans’ experiences of fighting the Nazis and liberating death camps with an Israeli public that’s only just beginning to learn about their contributions.

It’s a great read.

Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.