In the Shadow of the Red Banner by Yitzhak Arad
It is astonishing to realize that more than 60 years after the conclusion of World War II, new books are still being released that expose previously unpublished details of the unparalleled depth of anti-Semitism that occurred during the war. History is burdened with false claims that Jewish men did not fight on the Russian front, and we are left with visions of meek Jews submissively surrendering to the Nazis. With the aid of archival sources from Germany, Israel, Russia, and states that were previously part of the Soviet Union, Yitzhak Arad assembled this compilation of facts, details, reports, and first hand accounts of how the Russian Jews fought the Nazis and contributed in many ways to Germany’s ultimate loss.
In the Shadow of the Red Banner illustrates the full extent of Jewish participation in the war activities. There are chapters devoted to heroic service in the army, the underground, partisan activities, and detailed explanations of the various ghetto uprisings along with many examples of their distinguished contribution in the development and manufacturing of weapons, and in medical services. At the time, their help was unwanted, unappreciated, and scarcely recognized.
Yitzhak Arad states, “the annihilation of the Jews in the occupied territories began the day the Germans invaded the Soviet Union and did not stop until the Germans were expelled.” It was not difficult for Nazi propaganda to brainwash the citizens of conquered Soviet territories, since anti-Semitism was deep rooted in the Czarist regime and still prevalent when Stalin was in power. The Jews knew that captivity by the Germans was sure death, but they were just as likely to die at the hands of local citizens who willingly collaborated with the Nazis. So they fought loyally for their country and literally for their lives.
A brief introduction recounts the Soviet/German political philosophy and military strategy which played a large part in the success and failure of various countries during the war. Explanations are also provided regarding Jewish sentiments about communism and their participation in the Russian Revolution, which tie in strongly since Hitler blamed the Jews for the spread of communism.
The most enthralling chapters of the book involved resistance fighting within the ghettos and with the partisan fighters in the vast forests of Russia. With profound bravery, many Russian Jews escaped the ghettos unarmed and improperly clothed. They robbed and killed German soldiers and local police stations and entered the dense forests to participate in resistance activities: ambushing German forces, destroying bridges, railroads, and phone wires, and disrupting the German war machine which kept Germans continuously fighting behind their own lines instead of on the front. And amidst all the starvation, death, and destruction of civilization, there were amazing stories of Jewish family camps in the forests housing as many as 1200 people; women, children, and unarmed men who served the partisan fighters by setting up make-shift hospitals, bakeries, soap manufacturing, sausage factories, and tailor shops… never knowing if the partisans or local farmers would ultimately treat them with incomprehensible cruelty or ruthlessly turn them in to the Germans.
Anyone interested in Russian history, World War II, the Holocaust or Jewish chronicles would find this book a welcome addition to their library. It is an incredible documentary… a reference book and memoir for the half million Soviet Jews who fought against Nazi Germany.
Rated 5 Stars
All contents © 2010 Lois Weisberg. All rights reserved.