Blavatnik Archive to host international conference exploring the role of Jewish soldiers and fighters in the Allied armies during World War II
Historians and leading experts to gather virtually to raise awareness of the contributions and sacrifice by more than 1.5 million Jewish soldiers and fighters
The Blavatnik Archive, with the support of the Blavatnik Family Foundation, Genesis Philanthropy Group, and David Berg Foundation, will host an international virtual conference this month that honors the nearly 1.5 million Jewish men and women who fought in World War II against Adolf Hitler and the Axis powers. The “Jewish Soldiers & Fighters in WWII” conference is organized in connection to the Archive’s traveling exhibit, “Road to Victory: Jewish Soldiers in WWII.”
Nearly 40 historians and leading experts from universities, archives, libraries, and museums in nine countries are participating in the international gathering Nov. 14-15. For the first time, more than 50 museums and centers of learning across Europe, the U.S., and Israel have signed on as cultural partners, reflecting the active engagement of a wide global audience.
Participants will explore the subject of the “Jewish soldier” through historical and contemporary lenses, featuring themes of identity, unique war experience, the impact of trauma, unjust and fake representation, captured experience in literature and music, and legacy. Two special lecture-concert programs will feature music from the war: “Yiddish Songs of the Red Army,” drawing on the Grammy-nominated project Yiddish Glory, and “Songs from Testimonies,” drawing from the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies.
Targeted for genocide by Hitler and his allies, Jewish men and women bravely fought alongside their non-Jewish fellow military and partisan combatants to defeat a monstrous enemy, protect their homelands and avenge the murder of their families. Building on Blavatnik Archive’s “Veteran Testimony Project,” comprised of 1,200 video testimonies and thousands of personal archival documents, the conference focuses on learning the lessons from those who were there.
“It is imperative that we learn from history, commit to research, education, and conversation, as well as honor those who fought, and remember those who tragically perished,” said Len Blavatnik, founder of Access Industries and the Blavatnik Family Foundation.
Marina Yudborovsky, Genesis Philanthropy Group CEO, said: “The role and legacy of Soviet Jewish soldiers in World War II cannot be overestimated, though for many years they remained shamefully forgotten. We, at Genesis Philanthropy Group, believe that preserving their memory, as well as the memory of Jewish fighters in all the Allied armies, is important for both an accurate historical record and for strengthening the Jewish identity of today’s youth.”
She said the conference is critical to ensuring that the story of this period includes not only the remembrance of Jewish victims of Nazism, but also of the Jewish soldiers who fought against it.
As a ghetto survivor, partisan, and Red Army veteran Boris Feldman said in his Archives’ testimony in 2008: “Memories become forgotten. It’s like a disease. On the day you hurt you feel and remember the illness. Then the illness goes away. It goes way from your thoughts and from your consciousness. Why do Holocausts repeat? Because everything is forgotten. Generations must remember. They must have the desire to learn history. History repeats itself and only grows in complexity.”
“Jewish Soldiers & Fighters in World War II” will be guided by an internationally recognized and respected committee of scholarly advisers, including Elissa Bemporad (professor of history and the Jerry and William Ungar Chair in Eastern European Jewish History and the Holocaust, Queens College and the Graduate Center – CUNY); Derek Penslar (William Lee Frost professor of Jewish history, Harvard University); and Anna Shternshis (Al and Malka Green professor of Yiddish Studies and the director of the Anne Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies, University of Toronto).
Registration is free, available at JewishSoldiersInWWII.org.
About the Blavatnik Archive
The Blavatnik Archive is a nonprofit foundation dedicated to preserving and disseminating materials that contribute to the study of 20th century Jewish and world history, with a special emphasis on World War I, World War II and Soviet Russia. The Archive was founded in 2005 by the American industrialist and philanthropist Len Blavatnik to reflect his commitment to cultural heritage and expand his support for primary-source-based scholarship and education. Primarily through its metadata-rich, item-based website, the Archive shares its holdings as widely as possible for research, education, and public enrichment.
About the Blavatnik Family Foundation
The Blavatnik Family Foundation is an active supporter of world-renowned educational, scientific, cultural, and charitable institutions in the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel, Russia, and other countries throughout the world. The foundation is headed by Len Blavatnik, a global industrialist and philanthropist and the founder and chairman of Access Industries, a privately-held industrial group based in the U.S. with global strategic interests. Visit www.accessindustries.com or www.blavatnikfoundation.org.
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