Ch. 14 An Alternative Track: Jewish Soldiers Fighting on Soviet Screens

A unique feature of Soviet Jewish history was that half a million Soviet Jews heroically served in the Red Army during the war. As Jews, they were especially motivated to fight the Nazis. Several movies reflected the Jewish war effort by featuring Soviet-Jewish servicemen. Soldiers (1956), a film about the battle for Stalingrad, featured Officer Farber (played by Innokentii Smoktunovksii). Farber does not at first appear to be an ideal fighter: he is overly polite and self-effacing. This scene presents a dialogue between Farber and his Russian comrade, who challenges him and doubts Farber’s strength. But later in the film, it is this quiet Jewish guy who becomes a brilliant commander and wins an important battle.

Availability: Soldiers is available, without subtitles, on the Lenfilm studio channel.

  1. The film is based on a very popular Soviet novel. What changed in its transformation into the film?
  2. How is Farber portrayed in this scene? What does he look like? How does he talk? What is his body language?
  3. How is Farber’s Russian comrade portrayed in this scene? Why is he challenging Farber?
  4. Soldiers had a difficult time earning the approval of Soviet censors, and it enraged some Soviet military brass. What are the reasons for this?