Hundreds of Jewish World War II veterans of the Allied armies, the majority from the Former Soviet Union, attended the official Yad Vashem ceremony marking the 69th anniversary of the Allied victory over Nazi Germany yesterday, Thursday, May 8.
The ceremony took place at Yad Vashem’s Monument to the Jewish Soldiers and Partisans. Also present were wounded soldiers from the war against the Nazis, underground fighters, Jewish partisans, volunteers from the Yishuv who fought in the British forces and veterans of the Jewish Brigade, as well as diplomatic representatives and military officials from the Allied countries.
Approximately 1.5 million Jews fought against Nazi Germany in the regular Allied armies including the U.S., British, and Polish armed forces. An estimated 500,000 Jews served in the Red Army during World War II and 200,000 were killed in combat or as prisoners of war.
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Yakov Karasin, originally from Tukum, Latvia told Tazpit News Agency that he was wounded three times as a soldier in the artillery corps division of the Red Army fighting the Nazis. “I was 17-years-old when I was drafted into the Red Army after escaping Latvia from the Nazis.”
Karasin was awarded decorations for his actions in battle including the Order of the Red Star, a military decoration given for bravery in the Soviet Union, which he wore along with other Soviet military medals to the Yad Vashem ceremony on Thursday evening.
“I waited many years to come to Israel” the 89-year-old great-grandfather told Tazpit News Agency. “It was always my dream to come to Israel but it took six long years before the USSR agreed to grant emigration approval.” Applying for emigration in the Soviet Union at the time was equal to high treason. Yakov first applied for emigration in 1965 and was subsequently fired from his job. Only after multiple refusals, was the Karasin family finally granted approval in 1971.
At the Yad Vashem ceremony, wreaths were laid by representatives of the Government of Israel, the Knesset, IDF, diplomatic representatives of the Allied countries, as well as representatives of fighter and partisan organizations. Minister of Immigrant Absorption Sofa Landver took part in the ceremony.
The Israeli Police Orchestra, conducted by Mikhail Gurevich and soloists, participated in the event along with Lieutenant Colonel Shai Abramson, Chief Cantor of the IDF. Around 5,000 veterans of WWII reside in Israel today.
While Victory Day is marked by the United States and Britain on May 8, the day when the German army officially laid down its arms, Russia celebrates the Nazi surrender today, on May 9, as confrontations between the German and Soviet army had not ceased at that point in time.
Reprinted with permission from the Tazpit News Agency.