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April 28: Stopping Short of Revenge

April 27, 2016

Abraham_KatzevmanArkadi Timor (Abraham Katzevman), 24, entered the heart of Berlin as commander of the 14th Soviet Armored Battalion on this date in 1945. “The first thing in the morning that the soldiers at the front were waiting for was... to see the postman,” he later said in an interview made in Israel in the 1990s, “[to see] whether they had received a letter or not.... but I wasn’t waiting for any letter” — his entire family, from a 2-year-old sister to a 96-year-old grandfather, had been wiped out by the Nazis. “I ran to my tank.... At that time my tank was my home... the tank gave me the strength... I didn’t have anything else.... [But] you don’t get any letters from a tank... and a tank doesn’t smile at you.” Nevertheless, he said, when calls for revenge arose in the ranks, Lieutenant Colonel Timor (on the right in the photo above) “personally decided and gave the order... to provide food [to Germans] from two of my regiments’ field kitchens.... Soup was prepared around the clock and it was announced that children, women, and old people could come and eat, without showing any documents but on the condition that they should know that the commander of the unit that owned these kitchen was a Jew. It was very important for me that they should know that I was a Jew. I passed by those kitchens several times and I was greatly pleased with what I saw. This was my ‘revenge’....”

“Timor, whose interest in Judaism had been rekindled, was imprisoned in 1956. His wife was told that he would never return from the Gulag. But in 1960, thanks to secret negotiations, he was allowed to move to Israel, where he provided invaluable assistance to the Israeli Ordinance forces as well as serving with valor in combat.” —Mitchell Levin