Friday, May 8, 2015

Fighting for Freedom


New online exhibition marking 70 years since VE Day


"Fighting for Freedom" is a special new online exhibition marking 70 years since VE Day, the defeat of Nazi Germany by the Allied forces. This new exhibition tells the personal stories of some of the 1.5 million Jewish soldiers who served in the Allied Forces during WWII, through items such as artifacts, photographs, uniforms, prized medals and more, each telling a singular wartime tale. These treasured items express the unique encounters and individual experiences these combat soldiers faced when liberating their fellow Jews from the horrors of the Nazi concentration and death camps. 

Cloth wall decoration found in an
abandoned Jewish home in Lithuania
Moshe Domb enlisted in the Lithuanian division of the Red Army. During the war, Domb was wounded and hospitalized. While journeying to  rejoin his unit, he passed through many Lithuanian villages, seldom finding a Jewish child or woman who had miraculously survived. In one of the villages that he passed through, he entered the empty home of a Jewish family where he discovered an embroidered cloth decoration on the kitchen wall. Embroidered on the cloth is an image of a woman in a kitchen with the Yiddish saying "die Reinkeit liegt in Scheinkeit" (Purity lies in Cleanliness.) As Domb's unit marched through these villages they began to understand the magnitude of the destruction of the Jewish people and felt that they had arrived too late. In a letter Domb wrote, "We have already lost the war, no Jews are left in Europe, there is no hope of finding any of our family." Moshe later donated the cloth he found to the Yad Vashem Artifacts Collection.

Medal received by Ernestina-Yadja Krakowiak
 for service in the battle for Berlin
Another Jewish solider featured in the exhibition is Ernestina-Yadja (Minz) Krakowiak who was one of a number of Jewish women who served in the Allied Armies during WWII. Krakowiak, was born in Warsaw and fled to Soviet territory early in the war and was sent to a detention camp in Siberia. When a Polish unit of the Red Army was founded, Krakowiak joined its ranks, becoming only one of two women in her unit to serve in the artillery division. For her involvement in various combat operations, she was awarded both Polish and Soviet ribbons and medals which she later donated to Yad Vashem. 

To view other captivating stories of these Jewish soldiers in the online exhibition "Freedom Fighters" click here.

The exhibition is generously supported by the Genesis Philanthropy Group. 


Ernestina-Yadja (Minz) Krakowiak, 

Red Army, Polish Division

Yad Vashem's Artifacts Collection is comprised of over 28,000 itiems donated over the years by Holocaust survivors and members of their families, as well as various organizations in Israel and abroad.  The many personal effects in the collection unveil the individual stories of people, families and at times, entire communities.  Yad Vashem's national campaign "Gathering the Fragments" has been operating since 2011, in an 11th hour effort to collect Holocaust-related personal items from the general public in Israel. The items are then preserved, and their stories made available to researchers, students and the public. 

Information about donating items to Yad Vashem for safekeeping is available at collect@yadvashem.org.il. 

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