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February 16: Israel’s Monument to the Red Army

February 16, 2013

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on this date in 2010 that Israel would build a monument to commemorate the vital and sacrificial role of the Soviet Red Army in the defeat of Nazism. The announcement was made during a visit to Israel by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who said that he was discussing the establishment of a Holocaust museum. In June, 2012, Putin attended the dedication of the Israeli monument on Netanya's seacoast, and in November, 2012, Israeli President Shimon Peres attended the inauguration of the Jewish Museum and Center of Tolerance, the world's largest Jewish museum, in Moscow. During World War II (which Russia calls the Great Patriotic War), the Red Army conscripted nearly 30 million men in addition to the five million already at arms. More than six million were killed in action, half a million died from disease, and 4.5 million were captured. Unofficial estimates cite much higher numbers, however, including up to 11 million dead, and it is widely accepted that total Soviet casualties, including civilians, exceeded 26 million. Half a million Jews served in the Red Army, of whom some 200,000 were killed, and well over two million Jews were killed in the Holocaust on Soviet territory.

"It’s very easy to become cynical and say that this museum is just a political statement, but I think this museum and the interest in it are real." —David Rozenson, director of Avi Chai Foundation, commenting on the Moscow museum in the New York Times