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June 27, 2019
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Tragedy and Triumph: Between the Holocaust and Victory Day

Red Army vets who immigrated to Israel believed victory over Nazis should be commemorated alongside Holocaust

Israelis will today mark Holocaust Remembrance Day. It has become part of the Israeli calendar, placed between Passover — the exodus from Egypt when individual Jews became a nation — and the fifth Day of Iyar, the Jewish date on which the State of Israel was born on May 14, 1948.

The sequence has a cyclical historic sense: creation, extermination, re-birth.

The second Exodus, that of the Soviet Jewry in the 1990’s, brought an unexpected change to the well rooted ethos. Upon the uncompromising demand of the million newcomers, another link was added to the chain of Jewish history: May 9, the day of victory over the Nazis, as marked by the Russians, was recognized as an Israeli holiday.

Over 500,000 Jews served in the Red army during Second World War. Many of them had lost families in the Holocaust; 200,000 fell in daring battles, 160,000 were highly decorated; and about 10,000 of them immigrated to Israel.

For them, May 9 was their day and they believed it should be a day celebrated by all Israelis. Not only should the Holocaust be remembered, but victory as well.

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