Aleksandr Rozental was born in 1923 in the village of Novofastov, east of Berdichev, in Eastern Ukraine. Although his father Avram was a cobbler and a barber by profession, in 1929 he joined the newly formed kolkhoz in the village and began leading a peasant way of life, even though, from time to time, he also practiced his old professions. Aleksandr graduated from a 10-year general school. With the beginning of the Soviet-German war in June 1941 he was drafted into the Red Army. When he recalled the scene of parting with Aleksandr, his younger brother Daniil noted that this was the first time that he saw their parents Avram and Malka weeping.
After two weeks of training, Aleksandr's unit was deployed in central Ukraine. Their mission was to stop the enemy tank offensive in this sector, a mission that was not possible to accomplish. Aleksandr's regiment retreated. Near Smela, 200 kilometers to the east, the regiment was reinforced by newly recruits. Since he knew German, Aleksandr was included in a reconnaissance group, which later became a reconnaissance company, of his infantry division. By the end of 1941, he had been wounded three times (each time he was treated by a medical battalion, without leaving his division). He was awarded a medal and promoted to the rank of sergeant. Meanwhile, his division continued to retreat. In 1942 Aleksandr fought in the Northern Caucasus, where the Red Army attempted to halt the Wehrmacht's Operation "Edelweiss," aimed at capturing the oilfields of Baku. In November 1942 he was seriously wounded and, as a result, spent a long time in military hospitals. After the war his younger brother Daniil counted more than 30 scars on Aleksandr's body.
In January 1943 Aleksandr's unit liberated the town of Tikhoretsk in the Northern Caucasus. There, for the first time Aleksandr saw mass graves of Jews (mainly of evacuees from Ukraine and Central Russia) who were murdered by the Nazis in 1942. At that time he did not know that his Aunt Hana and her 5-year-old daughter Ida lay in one of those graves. In 1943, Aleksandr took part in the liberation of Rostov-on-Don, later he fought in Ukraine, in Eastern Galicia, and in the Carpathian Mountains. In the latter location Aleksandr sometimes put on Hutsul (a local ethnic group) folk clothes and, disguised as a Hutsul peasant youth, organized reconnaissance raids. In March 1944, near the town of Kolomea (now Kolomyia, Ukraine), he succeeded in capturing a German engineering officer as an "informant." When the latter was interrogated, he disclosed the plan of the fortifications around Kolomea. For obtaining this information, Aleksandr was awarded the Order of Glory, 3rd Class. In the winter of 1944 and the spring of 1945, he fought in Czechoslovakia.
In April 1944, Aleksandr learned that his parents had been murdered by the Nazis, but his second brother Leonid (Lusik) was alive, although he had recently been seriously wounded fighting in the Red Army. Aleksandr asked for leave to visit Leonid in his military hospital in Russia.
In 1941, Aleksandr's parents (Avram and Malka), his second brother Lusik, or Leonid (born in 1926) and his youngest brother Dalik, or Daniil, (who was born in 1928) failed to evacuate. In mid-July 1941, Novofastov was occupied by the Germans, and in August, a ghetto was established here. In September 1941, the Nazis executed the father. His last words when he was being taken away were "Malka, take care of the children."
During the ghetto period, the Rozentals were aided by two friendly Ukrainian families: Elizaveta Veselovskaia (whose husband had been drafted into the Red Army) and by the Zaiets couple, Kindrat and Veselina. Veselovskaia, who had children of her own, brought food and medicines to the ghetto. During the Nazi round-ups, she hid the Rozentals and some other Jews in her house. In May 1942, leaving alive only some specialists, the Nazis liquidated the ghetto. While being taken to the mass shooting, Malka Rozental whispered to her son Daniil: "I will distract their attention, and you run away and mingle with the children." Veselovskaia saw him escape and gave him a sign to go to her house. Some time later, Leonid, who had hidden during the murder operation, also came to Veselovskaia's. Later, the brothers were hidden by the prewar friend of the Rozentals, the Ukrainian Kindrat Zaiets who, being a skilled carpenter, built a bunker to hide them that no Ukrainian policeman would be able to find on Zaiets's property.
In 1943, fearing that he was suspected by the collaborationist police, Zaiets took Daniel to his relatives who were living in Skvira, near Kiev. Earlier Leonid had fled to Korsun, also in central Ukraine. Both Skvira and Korsun were liberated by the Red Army before Novofastov, Korsun in March 1944. In June 1944, Leonid Rozental was drafted into the Red Army (to the anti-tank artillery) and by October he was already at the front. He took part in the capture of Königsberg. In April 1945, while fighting in Eastern Prussia, he was seriously wounded by a shell. In the hospital, his right leg was amputated, and he was dismissed from the army. He was awarded two military orders (Of Glory, 3rd class and the Patriotic War, 2nd Class) and some medals.
After the liberation of Skvira in December 1943, Daniil joined the unit that liberated the town as a "son of the regiment." His "patron" was the commander of a battery who was also a Jew. Trying to preserve the life of the young Jewish survivor, this commander assigned Daniil to the supply department of the regiment and then, two months later, took him to newly liberated Novofastov. The brothers Leonid and Daniil met briefly at the house of the Zaiets family in the summer of 1944.
After the war, the Rozental brothers settled in Kiev. Aleksandr abandoned his idea of becoming a career officer and began studying at a technical institute. He died in Kiev in 1989. Daniil devoted his time and energy to the recovery of the names of the approximately 250 Novofastov Jews who perished in the Holocaust and of the stories of the rescue of several Novofastov Jewish families by Ukrainians. Due to his efforts Elizaveta Veselovskaia and Kindrat and Veselina Zaiets were awarded the title of Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem in 1996.
[Yad Vashem Archives, M.31.2/7317]