A day will come when the last soldier from that war will be gone forever. I want to give this interview as a witness of that war. I want to tell everything, as it really was.
Abram Davidovich Goldshmidt
Cleveland, USA. 2007
While the tragedy of the Holocaust and the brutal victimization of the Jews have been the focus of extensive study, the role of Jewish soldiers in the fight against Nazi Germany, and their experience as victors, remains largely unknown. Recognizing this important and overlooked chapter of Jewish history, Len Blavatnik, Chairman of Access Industries, and the Blavatnik Family Foundation launched a long-term project in 2006 to digitally record the personal testimonies of Jewish soldiers who fought in the Soviet Red Army during WWII (known in Russia as the Great Patriotic War), as well as to capture archival ephemera relating to their war‐time experiences.
In community centers and in private homes, in ten countries around the world, Jewish veterans who fought in the Red Army recalled their wartime memories, pre-war childhood stories and post-war life experiences. Proud, emotional, and at times nostalgic, these remarkable men and women were grateful for the opportunity to share and preserve their memories for future generations. To date the the Archive has completed over 1,100 video-recorded interviews in 11 countries, supplemented with thousands of digitized photographs and documents. Through public exhibitions, lecture events and other programs, the Blavatnik Archive is committed to preserving this important history and making it widely available for academic research and public education.
The generation of Soviet Jewish veterans who fought in WWII bore witness to some of the greatest upheavals in 20th century Jewish and world history: the migration of Jewish shtetl life to an urban environment, the rise and fall of the Soviet Union, the Holocaust and the war, and the mass migration of the Eastern European Jewish diaspora. As soldiers in the Soviet Red Army, they fought in WWII’s largest military force (30 million), as citizens of the country with the heaviest absolute losses (26 million). As Jews, members of a group targeted for genocide, they survived the Holocaust and contributed to the defeat of Nazi Germany. Half of the tragedy’s victims perished on Soviet territory, claiming the lives of their family, friends, and loved ones. They fought to protect their country and their people, and through incredible hardship, 500,000 Jewish soldiers ultimately marched to victory alongside their fellow Soviet patriots. Their words and recollections are an invaluable link to the past that must never be forgotten.
INTERVIEW COLLECTION PROCESS
2005 – 2014 the Archive recorded 1,100 video interviews with primary sources, in 11 different countries and captured thousands of photographs, documents, letter and diary pages. Physical ephemera artifacts were brought by the veterans to the interviews, and digitized onsite, following production quality standards.
Target country and city locations were determined for interviews, to represent both the origins of the Soviet Jewish veteran population, as well as the community’s current locations of residence around the world. In addition, the Project sought to capture and reflect geography-based nuances that might influence veteran experience and recollection. The Archive reached out directly to local veteran associations within target interview locations, which were then responsible for determining veteran members for interviews.
While interviews with veterans have mostly ceased, the Archive continues to collect stories and material artifacts about family members who fought in the Red Army during World War II. To propose artifact and content contribution, please complete our form.
Biographical and contact information is collected in advance of the interview. Personal artifacts brought to interviews are notated and scanned onsite in accordance to production quality specifications. Interviews are conducted in either community centers that are familiar to the interviewees, or at veteran homes. Interviews are filmed with professional quality video equipment. Average interview length is one hour. The overwhelming majority of all interviews are conducted in Russian. Veterans share accounts of their life stories, and standardized questions follow based on specific experience.