Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Israel on Monday to unveil a new “Victory Monument” commemorating the triumph of the Red Army – which included half a million Jews – over the Nazis during World War II. Putin was joined at the ceremony in Netanya by Israeli President Shimon Peres and Jewish leaders from around the world, whose presence signified the historical import of this unprecedented joint state venture between Israel and Russia.
“I am very excited to be here today,” Putin said in his address at the unveiling Monday. “We live in a fragile world and we are obligated to make sure that this dark and tragic time in history (the Holocaust) does not repeat itself. The Jewish Holocaust was the most shameful and dark event in human history, and the Soviet Army was the one who crushed the head of the Nazi monster.”
“This amazing monument strengthens the respect I feel towards to the Jewish people and the State of Israel,” he continued. “The wings in the monument are white like the wings of the dove that symbolizes peace.”
Designed by a committee whose members hail from both countries, the Victory Monument was erected as a result of joint efforts by major Jewish philanthropists, led by Keren Hayesod – United Israel Appeal and the World Forum of Russian Jewry. A world-class design commemorating the Red Army’s victory over Nazi Germany, the Monument honors the millions of Red Army soldiers who perished in the war, among them 120,000 Jews. Without the Red Army’s defeat of the Nazis in Russia in 1945, it’s unclear just how far the Third Reich would have gotten on their quest to take over the world.
Alexander Levin, President of the World Forum of Russian Jewry and an American citizen, represented Russian-speaking Jews from North America at the unveiling. “This incredible monument symbolizes the historical and ever-important role the Red Army played during World War II in defeating the Nazis and their horrors,” Levin stated. “Millions of Russian Jews around the world are united at this moment in solidarity for the brave Red Army soldiers. “I am proud to be part of those who support the building of this special monument, particularly as the sole representative of the United States and the millions of Russian-speaking Jews who reside there.”
About two years ago, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proposed the idea of the monument to President Putin on his visit to Moscow. Putin complied and promised to come to Israel for the inauguration ceremony – and on Monday he fulfilled his pledge.