From Israel, With Pride


Normally, the image of a soldier in uniform in Germany is frightening to Jews.

These pictures are comforting.

The uniforms, and the soldiers, are Israeli.

Each year Israel sends several hundred active-duty soldiers — most of them sergeants — and police officers to Europe to build ties with the Jewish communities in such countries as Germany, Poland and Hungary, and to give the Israelis an on-site education about the Holocaust.
The “Witnesses in Uniform” program also brings the soldiers to Yad Vashem and to a kibbutz founded by Holocaust survivors.

“Teaching about the Holocaust is imperative for the rank and file of the army,” Brig. Gen. Elie Shermeister, head of the Israeli Army’s education department, declared during a recent educational program for the army’s top leaders at Kibbutz Lohamei HaGhettaot. “We want to preserve and pass on the memories” of the Shoah “before the last witnesses die.”

This year an Israeli general led a group of several dozen soldiers who took part in the annual March of the Living that begins at the death camps in Poland and ends in Israel.

Air Force Major Haim Defrin, above, photographs wreaths laid on Berlin railroad tracks during a memorial service last week. The ceremony honored thousands of Berlin Jews who were deported east, mostly to Terezin and Auschwitz, between 1941 and 1944.
Israeli and German officials, left, light memorial candles during the ceremony.