Victory in Europe Day — popularly known as VE Day — is the public holiday celebrated on May 8th (and May 9th in Russia) to mark the formal acceptance by the Allies of World War 2 of Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender of its armed forces. Last week, the 70th anniversary of VE Day was celebrated by European, the British, Americans and Russians. Here in Israel, Jewish war veterans who had served as soldiers and fought as partisans, were honored at a ceremony in the presence of President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the Museum of the Jewish Soldier in World War 2 adjacent to the Armored Corps Memorial Site and Museum at Latrun.
The Museum was established to tell the story of the 1.5 million Jewish fighters who fought in the Allied Armies and the thousands who joined the Partisan forces during World War 2, and their role in defeating Nazi Germany and the other Axis powers. Its secondary purpose is to show the contribution that Jewish soldiers made to the emergence of the State of Israel and to victory in the War of Independence.
The Museum’s exhibition halls are set out in chronological order, from the first years of the War, 1939 to 1941, with halls dedicated to Jewish soldiers serving in Great Britain, the US, the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, the Partisans and Underground movements, acts of resistance in Ghettos and the camps, and the volunteers from the Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel — men and women — who served in the British Army.
In all, Jews served in the armed forces of Australia, Belgium, Brazil, , Canada, China, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, the Land of Israel, Finland, France, Great Britain, Greece, India, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Rhodesia, South Africa, The Netherlands, Transjordan, the US, USSR, and Yugoslavia and joined Partisan movements in Albania , Algeria , Belarus, Belgium , Bulgaria , Czechoslovakia , Denmark , France , Germany , Greece , Hungary , Italy , Latvia , Lithuania , Morocco , Norway , Poland , Romania , The Netherlands , Tunisia , the USSR and Yugoslavia.
The Museum is databasing the names and details of all Enlisted Jewish fighters; those who served are invited to input their details.
There is also a special section devoted to MAHAL — the corps of Jewish and non-Jewish volunteer who came to fight in the 1948 War of Independence.
The Museum is always on the lookout for historical materials about Jewish fighters in World War 2. Readers interested in honoring and/or memorializing loved ones are invited to contact the Museum to share items with interesting and moving stories.
For more information, visit the Museum of the Jewish Soldier in World War 2 website, YouTube channel and Facebook page.