Avraham Michael Greenzide
Avraham Michael Greenzide,
Chairman of the Second World War Veterans Association
I was seventeen and a half when I got an induction order to the Red Army, and by September 1943 I was drafted and sent to basic training. As new recruits, we all became familiar with warfare and weapons, but no boot camp could prepare us for the smell of burnt flesh.
I was enlisted to the Tartus division which fought the Nazis in Estonia, Norway and Poland. In the harsh battle of Katowice, Poland, held on January 12th, 1944, I felt for the first time what it meant to be hurled into hell. It was very simple: you either killed or got killed. Whoever claims he knows no fear in battle is a liar, or someone who hasn’t the slightest idea. I was never a coward, I charged forward whenever I had to, but fear never left my side. In letters I wrote to my mother I declared that I would fight to the bitter end. The Nazis had killed 137 members of my family, and I was eager to take my revenge on them, and on Hitler. I never cared much for Stalin or Lenin. I fought for my life.
I am glad I had the chance to carry weapons and fight the Nazis, because millions of Jews had not had this opportunity. After the war, some criticized the deceased for going like “sheep to the slaughter” – as if they had any other option. It is impossible to understand the mighty power of the Wehrmacht and the SS, with their mad Blitzkrieg over Europe. What could those Jews do? Imagine being attacked by Nazi soldiers. They bully you, yell at you, threaten you with guns, employ terrible violence. What would you do, in the lack of weapons and military training? That is why I think no one can criticize the millions of Jews who perished in the holocaust for not rebelling or fighting back.
Moreover, Jewish soldiers in the Red Army fought the Nazis courageously. About 200,000 Jewish warriors sacrificed their lives for saving their people and Europe. The number of casualties among Jews in the Red Army was much higher than their rate in the general population, which only goes to show their great determination in fighting the Nazis. I will never forgive the Nazis and their helpers for what they did to my family and my people. I personally did whatever I could to defeat them. I am glad I had the opportunity to carry weapons and fight them.