THIS DAY March 1, 1923 – Volodymyr Gelfand was born


On March 1, 1923 Volodymyr Gelfand, memoirist, author of published diaries of the Red Army officer, was born.

Volodymyr was born in the village of Novoarkhanhelsk, the Kirovohrad region, into a poor Jewish family. To find a better fate, the Gelfands have gone to Yesentuki, where relatives of the father, Nathan Solomonovych Gelfand, have already lived. In 1933, the family moved to Dnipropetrovsk. World War II found Volodymyr Gelfand in Yesentuki, where he was evacuated in August 1941. In April 1942 he turned to a military commissariat, and on May 6, 1942 he became a soldier of the Red Army. After graduating from the artillery school, Volodymyr received the military rank of sergeant. In Berlin, he ended the war with the rank of lieutenant. All the time – at the front, in the military hospital and at the school of junior officers – Gelfand kept a diary. During the respite between the enemy’s attacks and bombing, on marches, during fortification and preparation of the attack, in his free time, Volodymyr did not leave his personal notes.

This diary is unique in several ways. Firstly, in its chronological framework and the volume of records that began in the last pre-war months of 1941 and ended with the return from Germany, where Gelfand served in the occupation forces, in the fall of 1946. Secondly, Volodymyr was a mortar man, so during the war he was almost in the foreground, only infantry was ahead. Thirdly, and this, perhaps, the main thing – the diary is unprecedented due to its openness, sincerity. The author described both his personal humiliation and his indecent acts.

The diary reflects the Soviet army’s mood at the final stage of World War II and after its end, in particular, destruction, looting, death, and betrayal were presented, witnessed by Gelfand. The diary recorded several cases of violence and rape of German women. The author was a sensitive observer and accomplice, rolled into one, and did not try to hide acts of revenge and robbery. The diary is a unique chronicle of the beginning of the Soviet occupation of Germany. The book by Volodymyr Gelfand “Deutschland Tagebuch 1945–1946” was the first and only publication in Germany with diary entries of a Red Army officer, which was published in German. The book was also published in Swedish and Russian.

At the end of 2019, the personal belongings of Volodymyr Gelfand and his family were transferred to Museum “Jewish Memory and Holocaust in Ukraine”. In Museum’s library you can find the book by V. Gelfand “The Diary of 1941-1946” (in Russian). Link to publication in the electronic catalog here