Veteran Stories:
Leon Broitman


  • Leon Broitman in Vancouver, 2010.

    Historica Canada
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"I was drafted in 1941, at the age of 19. I was trained in Siberia, but then I was sent to the blockade of Leningrad, now they call it Petrograd."


Five hundred thousand Russian Jews took part in the war. From them, over 200,00 were killed. From the 300,000 that weren’t killed, some were wounded three, four times and they [were] called back every time. I myself was wounded February 1942. I was badly wounded. I was dischared from the [Soviet] army as not suitable anymore, because I badly wounded my left arm.

When the Germans occupied my village, my town, they created ghettos, you know what ghetto means? The Germans killed the Jews. They killed my grandfather, my grandmother; they killed my father and my mother. They killed my younger brothers and sister. They killed every Jew they can find. For the German, it was more important to kill the Jew than save their own people.

I was drafted in 1941, at the age of 19. I was trained in Siberia, but then I was sent to the blockade of Leningrad, now they call it Petrograd. I wasn’t inside, I was outside. The people of Petrograd were living on 140 grams of bread, bread mixed with sawdust. There was a lake, Ladoga Lake. In the wintertime, day and night, transports used to come from Petrograd, evacuating people from there. My job was telephone. I kept on my shoulder the telephone connection. Right before I was wounded, I went to the underground cabin; there was a military officer there. I don’t know if he was a captain, I don’t know was he was, I was just a soldier. And I was with him then. He was very friendly, very nice. But then you had to go outside, there was no inside plumbing there. And then the bullets whistling and then I was wounded.

When I got wounded, at that time was an heat spell in February, an heat spell. The sleighs to pull me out from the battlefield couldn’t go, so they put logs on the mud. And every time the sleighs took us, you bones were cracking. A guy beside me, he was 17 years old, he was wounded in the right chest, and they couldn’t bandage him. The way he sounded was something awful. My arm was easy to bandage, his, they couldn’t. And he was 17 years old. And his name was Uri Pishinkov, he’s a Ukranian boy. And the way he sounded was something awful. They took us out and they took us to a garage, a car garage, empty, and there was hundreds of wounded soldiers who laid on the ground there. Until the military train, from a passenger train, they made a military train that was three rows of like bunk beds. But the Germans still were bombing us. But the further we went from the front and the closer to the Ural Mountains, the safer we were because the German planes couldn’t reach us. And then they took me to hospital there near the Ural Mountains, I was four months in the hospital. I was discharged not suitable anymore for military service.

When the war was over in 1945, my brother was a prisoner. But if the war would have been any longer, he would have been caught as a Jew. Somebody would have reported him. But I met him in our village, in our town, they call it in Jewish ‘shtetl,’ a shtetl’s a Jewish settlement. But there was no more Jews there.

Interview date: 18 October 2010

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