The Jewish Eye
My Just War
My Just War
The Memoir of a Jewish Red Army Soldier in World War II
By Gabriel Temkin
Presidio Press: 1997
A remarkable story of the resilience, courage, and perseverance of a stranger in a strange land.
From the Publisher
Gabriel Temkin, an eighteen-year-old Jew, was living in Lodz, Poland, in September 1939 when the Germans invaded. Following their swift conquest of Poland, the Nazis unleashed a campaign of terror against the Polish Jews. Facing Nazi persecution, Temkin and his young fiancee Hanna fled to the Soviet-controlled eastern part of Poland. (Temkin's entire family, who could not get out of Lodz, was killed during the Holocaust.) On June 22, 1941 German panzers rolled across Soviet borders. Three weeks later Temkin was drafted into the Red Army. Distrusted by the Soviets because he was a refugee, Temkin was assigned, along with other refugees, to a military labor battalion to dig antitank ditches. In July 1942, during the Wehrmacht's Stalingrad offensive, Temkin was captured by the Nazis and sent to a POW camp. The Nazis were rewarding prisoners with bread to betray the Jews among them, but Temkin was not turned in. He eventually escaped, now remembering fondly the courageous, ordinary Russian and Ukrainian villagers who risked their lives helping him - a fugitive POW - with food and shelter. When he was able to reenlist, as the result of a bureaucratic fluke Temkin signed up not as a laborer but as a soldier in the regular Red Army. In May 1943, joining the scout/reconnaissance platoon of a rifle regiment, he fought the Nazis across Ukraine, Romania, and Hungary, reaching Austria by the war's end in April 1945. Temkin is one of the only known Polish Jews to have fought as a combat soldier in the Red Army. He was awarded the Medal of Valor and distinguished himself in battle on several other occasions.
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