Jews Who Died Fighting in Red Army

Exhibit at 92Y Takes Look Back at Their Sacrifice

Occupy Reichstag: Victorious Soviet troops pose outside the conquered seat of Nazi power in Berlin.
courtesy of the blavatnik archive
Occupy Reichstag: Victorious Soviet troops pose outside the conquered seat of Nazi power in Berlin.

By Paul Berger

Published November 11, 2011, issue of November 18, 2011.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 2)

On a wall panel, Ilan Yakovlevich Palat recalls how, after being wounded in the ankle outside Kharkov, he was dragged off the battlefield. His comrade laid him out in a house and hung Palat’s boot by a window to alert passersby that someone was inside. In the early hours of the morning, Palat heard someone approach.

“I got my pistol ready, two cartridges: One bullet for him, the second for myself,” Palat recalled.

The stranger turned out to be a local woman who put Palat on the back of a cart and took him to the nearest field hospital.

Palat, who came from the Soviet Jewish region of Birobidzhan, said: “Of the 44 [of] us, only three came back. One returned without his left leg, another without his right arm and I came back on crutches.”

And so the exhibition continues, with a succession of gripping, firsthand accounts — of treachery and atrocities, of small acts of kindness and stirring examples of courage, of camaraderie and terror.

Each one deserves mention. But Semeon Grigorevich Shpiegel’s story is the one that reminded me of the veteran and the puddle. He volunteered for the Red Army in May 1942 and, as with all the exhibition’s tales, the small details of Shpiegel’s experience illustrate the widespread hardships of daily life.

At 19, Shpiegel was dispatched to Stalingrad, where he fought as part of a mortar unit in one of the cruelest and bloodiest battles in history.

“We crossed the river on the 27th of September,” Shpiegel recounted. “We had to get our water from the Volga and carry it in mess tins…. We drank water from the puddles. Drank water from the buckets that were standing next to houses, rainwater. The water was covered with mold. But we were thirsty and so we drank it.”

“Lives of the Great Patriotic War: The Untold Stories of Soviet Jewish Soldiers in the Red Army During WWII,” runs at the Weill Art Gallery, 92nd Street Y, until December 6. Forward publisher Sam Norich will moderate a panel about Jews in the Red Army on November 22 at the 92nd Street Y.

Paul Berger is a staff writer for the Forward.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Ari Folman's new movie 'The Congress' is a brilliant spectacle, an exhilarating visual extravaganza and a slapdash thought experiment. It's also unlike anything Forward critic Ezra Glinter has ever seen. http://jd.fo/d4unE
  • The eggplant is beloved in Israel. So why do Americans keep giving it a bad rap? With this new recipe, Vered Guttman sets out to defend the honor of her favorite vegetable.
  • “KlezKamp has always been a crazy quilt of gay and straight, religious and nonreligious, Jewish and gentile.” Why is the klezmer festival shutting down now?
  • “You can plagiarize the Bible, can’t you?” Jill Sobule says when asked how she went about writing the lyrics for a new 'Yentl' adaptation. “A couple of the songs I completely stole." Share this with the theater-lovers in your life!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.