"Our intelligence soldiers brought us a wounded German who they were trying to get information out of. He was red-headed, tall, and the commander said to take care of him. He recognized I was Jewish and spat on me, so I pulled out my gun and killed him on the spot." So tells Yevgenya Schneider, 95 years of age, who served as a doctor in the Red Army on the same historical battle of Stalingrad in World War II.
Recently celebrating with her friends, Schneider marked the victory day of the Soviet Union over Nazi Germany in a ceremony in Beer Sheva. Later, these veterans will also hold the traditional veterans' parade in Jerusalem and hold a ceremony in Yad Vashem.
Schneider is a strong and impressive woman; she still remembers the costly battle of Stalingrad, in which she had to operate on soldiers under heavy fire. Today, she lives at a retirement Amigour home in Beer Sheva, one of many Amigour facilities where WWII veterans can be found today.
"In August 1941, I was volunteering with the Army and got sent to the front lines. After a while, our unit was captured, and for a month we tried to run away," she recalls. After they were able to escape, their unit was tranfered to Stalingrad. "When they bombed Stalingrad, I had to operate on a wounded soldier in the field when it was horribly cold. I would operate and amputate legs, and tend for those with heart and internal wounds – in unspeakable conditions. Day and night the bombings continued ceaselessly. Every hour that we were alive was a miracle. Nurses in command were killed, and there were times without food supplies.
Schneider tells of what happened to her after killing the German soldier: "I was summoned to questioning because they needed intelligence from this German, but they knew me and respected me. This caused a bit of a commotion, but that’s it."
Schenider served as the unit's doctor, and at the end of the war, arrived at the devastated city of Berlin. After their victory, she continued tending for the wounded coming in from distant battlefields. "When we entered Berlin, we had to hide in school cellars because citizens would throw homemade explosive devices at us. In Moscow, there was a huge celebratory ceremony and Stalin stood in the square, and we continued fighting and the wounded kept coming in. This went on without an end."
The horrific sites of Auschwitz
In the retirement home, there are veterans that are over 100 years old, like Vladimir Yivgenovich Golokov, 102. Golokov started his service in the military in 1940, and after becoming an officer, served in many battles against the Nazis, was wounded twice, and promoted to a major.
"When I was on the Japanese-Russian border, and we finished basic training, almost all of my friends were taken to Stalingrad but I was taken to study 'Ideology'. After graduating with honors, I moved to Moscow and from there to Korsk", says Golkov.
The battle in Korsk was a pivotal moment on the eastern front, where the Germans suffered many loses and a decisive defeat. It was considered one of the biggest armory battles in history, with many tanks participating on both sides. On our platoon were about 360 soldiers. It is hard to put into words what happened there, I still can't talk about it without crying."
During the emancipation of Poland from German occupation, Golkov reached concentration camps, among them Auschwitz-Birkenau. "The people I saw there are unimaginable, thin like shadow. We felt a hatred that is hard to describe towards the Nazis who did such things. We gave those who had nothing all we had...We were in Auschwitz only for a few hours out of the war, but I never saw anything more horrible than what was there. People were gathered together in fear, they had a hard time walking, thin as death. Their faces only skin and bones."
In 1992, Golkov made Aliyah to Israel, and since then, he has been living in the "Orot" retirement home in Beer Sheva.
Raised Her Sister's Children
Hava Kochik, 100 years old, was only 27 when the war reached the Ukrainian villiage were she was living with her family. She lost her husband and brothers in the battles against the Nazis, and there, her father was beat to death in front of her eyes. "He said something, and then they beat him. I didn't even see where they buried him."
Kochik's sister died of starvation during the war, and she adopted her three children. "They were like my own children in every way. My sister asked me to raise them." She remembers Liberation Day vividly. "The Red Army entered, there was a tank, and people jumped on it. I remember the screams and cries. People fell from joy."
The Germans surrendered to the United States on May 7 1945, and to the Soviet Union on May 8 -- though the latter only became effective on May 9 Moscow time, which is why Russians today celebrate May 9 as Victory Day instead of May 8.
Read the original article in Hebrew by Ilana Correal in Yediot Ahronot here.