Victory Parade in Moscow

Today, I wish I was in Moscow, most probably on Tverskaya street, to watch the impressive parade that is now unfolding to mark the 70th anniversary of the victory over the Nazi hordes – a victory made possible by the huge sacrifices consented by the Soviet people and the Red Army.

But since I’m not there, I’m watching victory parades of the past. Understandably, I’m more interested in the one that was organized in 1945. So it’s a pleasure for me to share these images with you!

For those of you who might have a bit more time on a Saturday, the second video (below) is much longer but no less interesting. As for the first one, the most powerful moment comes at 10 minutes when the Nazi flags and banners are laid down on the ground. Nobody could have marched on that day anywhere in Europe, if millions of Soviet and Allied soldiers had not fallen or poured their hearts into battle.

Lest we forget!

“Most of the Holocaust survivors were saved by the Red Army”

The Soviet War Cemetery in Warsaw, May 2015.
The Soviet War Cemetery in Warsaw, May 2015.

There is a sad tendency, these days, to rewrite history for political purposes.

In a recent book, French historian Philippe Richardot writes in his introduction: “The deciding factor of World War II is what occurred on the Eastern front” (my translation). And there is ample academic evidence to support this statement.

Alas, because of the current geopolitical context, in which many world leaders are opposed to Russian President Vladimir Putin, it is hard for many to resist the temptation to equate this situation with the intention of rewriting history.

Fortunately, there are people who are holding these revisionists to account.

Take for example this Israeli man who was interviewed by the Russian radio.

Here are two revealing excerpts of his interview:

“Most of the Holocaust survivors were saved by the Red Army. And they are live witnesses up until now. So it never happened in Israel anything like in Europe, nothing undermining the Russian part in the Second World War.

[…]

There are 39 memorials commemorating those who were responsible for this great victory, 39 memorials for the soldiers of the Red Army primarily. You don’t have anything like this in any other parts of the world. So today together with the Holocaust there is a memory of the great victory in Israel combined together.”

Scoring easy political points on the back of a leader you dislike is one thing, distorting history and betraying the memory of those who fell to ensure victory of barbarism and Nazism is another one. And it is unacceptable.

The Red Army deserves credit for the 1945 victory and we should never shy away from being grateful.

The T-14 Armata tank and the military buildup of the Russian army

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The new Russian T-14 Armata tank. Source: http://bit.ly/1DS5YTD

Jane’s is a gem of a resource for anybody interested in military affairs and analysis.

This video shows that, with new acquisitions for its land forces, the Russian army will benefit from a big increase in capability.

Watching it reminded me of a very interesting and revealing quote in Mark Urban’s new (and honestly excellent and impossible to put down) book, The Edge:

“But even if his [President Putin’s] planned military buildup cannot now be funded, Russia has already taken its forces to the point where it is the global leader in several areas. Equally important, given the need of any aspiring military power to match capability with intent, the Kremlin has shown the willingness to use them.” (p. 89).

And this disposition will only benefit from economic recovery.

While the countries in the West continue to play cheap political games with cutbacks in military resources.

Remembering Jewish Soldiers of the Red Army

parade-031209According to a very interesting story published in the Jerusalem Post today, almost half of the Israelis polled are in favor of making May 9th, which is the day when Soviet Victory over Nazism is commemorated in Russia, a national holiday in Israel, too. Even more interesting is the fact that Yad Vashem (the Memorial and Museum to the memory of the victims of the Holocaust in Jerusalem) evaluates that no less than 1,5 million Jews took arms and fought barbarism during World War II. Here’s the eloquent example reported by the JPost:

“Anatoli Shapiro, for example, a Red Army officer who commanded the division that liberated Auschwitz, was the first man to open the gates and inform its prisoners ‘the Red army has come to liberate you.’ His story reflects most of all the essence of the Jewish fighters, fighters who didn’t just ask to bring freedom to Europe, but fighters who fought to save their brothers and sisters.”

There is ample academic research (you could fill a few bookshelves of books about that subject) supporting the fact that, without the USSR, it is doubtful that the Allies would have crushed Hitler’s hordes. It is no less significant to recognize the service of Jewish soldiers who were part of the Red army. On May 9th, we not only salute the Soviet (Russians, Ukrainians and others) men and women who made tremendous sacrifices, the ultimate one in the case of several millions, but also these Jewish and Israeli people who also carry that involvement as a badge of honor. A national holiday is not an exaggerated way to say: Thank you!

Anti-Semitism on the rise by nearly 40%

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Rome (Gemelli station), summer 2014.

Last Saturday night, my family and I went to the Synagogue. We are not Jewish. We are proud Catholics. And we believe in the dialogue and friendship between Catholic and Jewish people. And we are always eager to express our solidarity with the Jewish people.

One particular discussion with a middled-aged Jewish man struck a chord in me. In a resigned tone, this gentleman expressed his discouragement at the alarming rise of anti-Semitism in Europe.

This reminded me of the recent study completed by Tel Aviv University researchers, which revealed that the year 2014 had been characterized by the fact that ant-Semitic incidents rose by nearly 40%.

This is more than preoccupying, since:

“The overall feeling among many Jewish people is one of living in an intensifying anti-Jewish environment that has become not only insulting and threatening, but outright dangerous, and that they are facing an explosion of hatred towards them as individuals, their communities, and Israel, as a Jewish state,” the authors wrote.

Last summer, while waiting for a train at a Rome station, I noticed a large swastika painted on the locomotive. In the last months, I have also heard an alarming number of anti-Semitic comments and observations by various people.

Anti-Semitism is a cancer that is eating up the spirit of tolerance of Europe – and many other parts of the world. We need to fight it with all our energies and determination. For, as Pope Francis recently said “a Christian cannot be anti-Semitic!” And I totally agree with him.

I just wish I could join up with the participants of the upcoming 5th Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism in Jerusalem. I’ll make sure to attend in 2017. Now, more than ever, we need such venues.

Israel deployed 33% of the foreign medical personnel in Nepal

Yet another representation that Israel is a people of life and for life. If you compare the importance of the various medical delegations to Nepal with the population of the involved countries, you will quickly understand that Israel’s contribution is the most significant. If you are seeking a precise number, the government of Jerusalem has deployed 33% of the foreign medical personnel in Nepal, following the earthquake.

I’m waiting for major Western news media to report on it and to stress the fact that Israel is a deeply humanitarian society and country.

But I think I’ll wait a long time to hear about it from these sources. They will wait for the next opportunity to lambast and criticize. Sad. Very sad.