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V-J Day Kiss woman passes on

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Photo: Alfred Eisenstaedt/Life Magazine
22:00 CEST+02:00
The woman whose participation in an impromptu kiss celebrating the end of the war with Japan has died on Thursday after a brief illness at the age of 92.

Greta Zimmer Friedman was a 21-year-old dental assistant whose Austrian parents both died in the Holocaust.  She had arrived  with her three sisters to the USA at the age of 15.  Ironically, the photo was taken by a German who also lived in the USA, Alfred Eisenstaedt, using a Leica IIIa.

When the news of Japan's unconditional surrender was announced on August 14, 1945 people spontaneously rushed into the streets of New York to celebrate.

Caught up in the celebrations was the young Austrian girl, wearing a nurse's uniform, in the embrace of a sailor, George Mendonsa.

Her son Joshua Friedman says his mother recalled it all happening in an instant.

"It wasn't that much of a kiss," Friedman said in an interview with the Veterans History Project in 2005. "It was just somebody celebrating. It wasn't a romantic event."

Some have suggested the story smacks of sexual assault, but Friedman said his mother, born in Wiener Neustadt, would respectfully disagree.

“My mom… understood the premise that you don’t have a right to be intimate with a stranger on the street,” he told the Daily News, but added: “She didn’t assign any bad motives to George in that circumstance, that situation, that time.”


CBS News reunited Friedman (left) and Mendonsa in Times Square in 2012. Photo: CBS News

The photo captured an instant in time which has become iconic, symbolizing an important event affecting many subsequent generations.

Other photos taken at the same time show in the background another smiling woman in a nurse's uniform who was on a date with Mendonsa, and who subsequently became his wife.

Friedman went on to marry a doctor, Misha Friedman.  Eisenstaedt, who was also Jewish, passed in 1995 after a long and successful career photographing for Life magazine, culminating in pictures he took of the then-president Clinton and his family.

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