Abram Izikson was born in 1923 in Minsk. His father Shmerke ('Samuil' in Soviet documents) was a customs official; his mother was a seamstress. The mother was religiously observant, while the father was not, although he did attend the synagogue on certain holidays. The family was Yiddish-speaking. At the age of five, Abram was sent to an illegal cheder, but was expelled from it in short order, after playing a cruel joke on the melamed (religious teacher). At the age of six, he entered a Soviet Yiddish school, where he gained the reputation of a "hooligan". In 1938, Abram's Yiddish school was "reorganized" – i.e., transformed into a Belorussian one; Abram refused to study at the Belorussian school and dropped out of it. He wished to follow in his father's footsteps and become a metalworker at a factory. However, his father told him that metalworking would not be good for him, and he apprenticed Abram to a barber friend of his. In 1939, Abram began to work as a barber.
On June 22, 1941, the Soviet-German War broke out, and on its third day Abram was wounded in the leg during a German air raid on Minsk (one of his sisters was killed in that bombing). The family failed to evacuate, and found themselves under German occupation. In late July 1941, Abram was imprisoned in the Minsk Ghetto, along with the rest of his family. Abram's family was murdered in the pogrom of March 2, 1942 in Minsk. After the pogrom, Abram Izikson fled from the ghetto, and in September 1942 he managed to join a Soviet partisan unit. Izikson went on to serve with the partisans until early July 1944. During this time, he passed through several partisan brigades, and was seriously wounded. In July 1944, Abram's unit met the advancing Red Army in the town of Iwje.
Once in the Red Army, the former partisan Abram Izikson was attached to the 28th Separate Reconnaissance Company of the 5th Rifle Division; he saw action in the vicinity of Wołkowysk-Białystok in the Polish-Belorussian border zone, and later took part in the Łomża-Różan Operation. In early 1945, he fought in East Prussia. Izikson's greatest asset as a reconnaissance man was his knowledge of German, which helped him capture enemy informants, who could give useful information to the Red Army. His second asset was his good horsemanship – this was important, since he had begun his reconnaissance service in a platoon of mounted scouts. In December 1944, Izikson was awarded his first order, that of the Red Star. The citation for the award said:
"On the night of November 21-22, 1944, the platoon was ordered to take a "control captive" in the vicinity of the village of Rupin [north of Warsaw]. Red Army private Izikson, as a member of the capturing team, showed bravery and determination. He took over the initiative for the capture and moved forward. Having climbed down into the enemy trench, he was the first to advance, confronting a German machine-gunner. The German machine-gunner noticed the movements of the team and stopped them with a shout. Private Izikson replied in German that he was an Oberleutnant who had come to inspect the posts. After coming up to a distance of 5-6 meters from the German machine-gunner, Private Izikson rushed him and captured him singlehandedly. Having eliminated a guard, Izikson noticed a German dugout with a platoon of enemy soldiers. He suppressed them with hand grenades, annihilating all the Germans in the dugout. Having carried out their task, the reconnaissance men returned, without suffering any losses.… Red Army private Izikson has one informant and five captives to his personal credit."
A short time after this exploit, Izikson was wounded once more. His second military order, that of the Patriotic War, 2nd class, was awarded during the victory days in May 1945. He met V-E Day near Berlin.
On more than one occasion, Abram Izikson was confronted with antisemitism – both among the partisans and in the regular army. Only thanks to his bravery in battle and his resolute character was he able to gain the respect of his comrades.
Izikson was discharged from the army in 1946. He went on to work as a barber, and later as a technician, in Minsk. In the early 1980s, following his eldest daughter, Abram Izikson immigrated to the USA; he lived in New Britain, CT.
Red Army Private Abram Izikson encounters antisemitism
"I was attached to the reconnaissance; there were two infantry platoons and one mounted reconnaissance platoon, and I was attached to the cavalry. They gave me a saber… and a horse, a big and good one. I went to feed the horse, and I overheard two men talking. One of them said: "See, a Jerusalem Cossack has come to us, and now there will be no luck for us." The Jerusalem Cossack – that's me. I went back and saw them: It was Yudin and Sergeant Prokopenko, a Ukrainian. I did not say a word. On the next day, in the evening, they sent me to pursue the enemy, since they wished to test me, see how the 'Jerusalem Cossack' would perform on horseback. But I was a good horseman, and the horse was good.… [Prokopenko] said: 'You will go to the 1st Platoon, to Yudin' – i.e., to the man who had called me a 'Jerusalem Cossack'. I came to him, reporting: 'Comrade platoon commander, I have come to you to continue my service.' He said: 'Find a place to sleep.' I said: 'Before going to sleep, I want to talk to you… Let's go out.' So we went out, and I said: 'So, I heard you talking about a Jerusalem Cossack… I don't condone such things, don't forgive them…. You want to get rid of me, but it's me who will get rid of you…, I promise you.' He said: 'What are you on about?' – he even grew pale – 'I promise I won't say a word more, not ever' – and he appointed me his deputy, deputy commander of the platoon. Two days later, I was promoted to sergeant.… And so, we went out on a patrol, and this Yudin stepped on an anti-personnel mine, losing part of his leg.… And when he was at the hospital – i.e., in the medsanbat [medical-sanitary battalion] – he told me: 'You see, I did not know what a Jew was. I had never seen a Jew in my life; all the people here said such things, so I followed their example. Forgive me, I will remember you forever' – because it was I who had carried him back, on my own shoulders."
YVA O.93-37207, reel 5, 23:54-28:38