Today, much of the world celebrates the 70th anniversary of the Allied victory over the Nazis. Washington will hold commemorative events throughout the city, including at the World War II Memorial. In parts of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, the anniversary will be remembered over the weekend. Yesterday in Israel, during a ceremony to mark the anniversary, Prime Minister Netanyahu said, "the first lesson learned from the Holocaust was that we must be capable, prepared and able to defend ourselves by ourselves against any threat."
In light of today's anniversary, I want to share with you an event that took place in Washington several years ago at the World War II Memorial. I was asked to speak to a group of Red Army veterans from New York City who had fought in World War II. NCSEJ arranged for the group to see the section of the Memorial honoring the Red Army.
As they got off the bus to hear the story behind the building of the Memorial, a wonderful thing began to happen. Hundreds, yes, hundreds of tourists gathered around these courageous men and women wanting to know who they were. I began to explain to a much a larger audience why this group of elderly men and women were in Washington at the Memorial, and how their contributions were vital in fighting the Nazis and ending the War. After I finished speaking, spontaneous applause erupted for the veterans and shouts of "thank you" were directed at them. As we moved inside the Memorial, a gauntlet formed to allow them to walk toward the section honoring them and their comrades.
You could sense their pride and see the astonishment and tears in their eyes as more and more people joined the line of applause. Many had trouble walking the distance from the entrance of the Memorial to where we going, but that day they walked a little straighter and puffed out their chests to make sure everyone could see their medals. What began as an ordinary visit turned into a celebration of the joint efforts of American and Soviet soldiers to defeat the Nazis. It was truly a remarkable day. I had never seen anything like this before and I am sure no else had either.
Mark B. Levin