USC Hosts Exhibit on Jewish Soviets

The Jewish Soviets who fought on the side of the Allied forces during the Second World War are currently being honored by an exhibit at the University of Southern California. The exhibit is not particularly large, but USC has set up ten kiosks which also highlight their new collection of archived video. While it is not surprising to many that numerous Jewish Soviets fought in the war, their story is not widely told.

Of the thirty million Russian soldiers who fought in the Second World War, about half a million of them were Jews. The Blavatnik Archive Foundation, upon realization that these men’s stories are noticeably absent from many Holocaust museums, decided to put on the exhibit to undo what they saw as a wrong. Over 150,000 Jewish Soviets were awarded for their courage during what Russia refers to as The Great Patriotic War, and the Foundation felt it was time for their story to be told. The exhibit at USC does not even scratch the surface of everything the Foundation has in their archives.

Foundation director Julie Chervinsky believes that the story of the Russian Jews has been ignored entirely in the grand scheme of history. The archive contains quite a bit of information to help her in her mission to change this, including letters written by the Jewish Soviets themselves. Over time these men became the purpose of the archive itself, rather than the collection of artifacts pertaining to the Holocaust in general.

They have even been able to interview over one thousand survivors, and these interviews helped them put together the exhibit at USC. The men who were interviewed have even become a part of display, with photos of the Jewish Soviets as they appeared during the war as well as how they appear now. It also describes how the war unfolded through their eyes, from the Russian Revolution to the Nazi invasion of Russia. It then describes the Battle of Stalingrad and the battles beyond, the Jewish Journal reports.

The Red Army’s Jewish Soviets were not only as important as any other soldier, but they were also highly decorated and arguably had a bigger personal stake in the conflict. Not only was their land being invaded, but their people were facing mass extermination at the hands of Adolf Hitler. Of course, even fighting for the Allies, these men were not free from discrimination. Since communism would not permit the observation of religious ceremony, the Jewish Soviets lost a great part of who they were in order to fight for the survival of their people.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE