Bearing Witness: Stories Behind the Artifacts in the Yad Vashem Museum Collection

A Soviet Jew’s Triumphs in Vienna

The Medals and military ribbons received by Joseph Katanov for his service in the Red Army during WWIIThe Medals and military ribbons received by Joseph Katanov for his service in the Red Army during WWII   More photos

Joseph Katanov was born on January 12, 1916, in the city of Nemengen in the Uzbek Republic of the Soviet Union. Growing up in a poor family, he finished his Jewish education, studied Torah, and became a teacher in a village school. He also joined the local theater troupe.

Joseph was drafted into the army in 1939, before the outbreak of the war, yet as a result of the war remained in service until 1946.

At the beginning of his service he joined a brigade of archers. In June 1941 he was stationed in Moldavia, where he reached the front. After his division was dismantled, he was transferred along with other soldiers to a division belonging to army engineers. In this division he helped defend the Caucasus Mountains, and fought in many cities in the region.

With the approach of the German army, the soldiers received an order to blow up a chemical factory, for which Joseph received the medal for bravery.

After additional service in other areas of the Soviet Union, his division was sent to Vienna. For the liberation of Vienna Joseph received a medal and a letter of appreciation from Stalin.

Joseph served after the war in special units in Budapest and Austria, and in May 1946 he was released from military service.

Joseph immigrated to Dimona, Israel at the age of 78. Joseph passed away in 2005.

Yad Vashem Artifacts Collection
Gift of Izik and Ahuva Katanov, Dimona, Israel