Alexander Barenboim, who held the rank of senior lieutenant, was the secretary of the political department of the Fourth Guards Tank Brigade. He was born in 1916 in Uman, Kiev Province. He was drafted into the Red Army in 1937. From the start of war in 1941 he was at the front. In January 1942 his tank hit a mine and he was seriously wounded. As a result he lost his right eye and to the end of this life he had a hole in his head, which was covered by skin. After being discharged from the hospital, despite the insistence of his doctors, he refused to be demobilized and, instead, returned to his tank brigade.
In August 1942, at the initiative of some tank personnel, including Barenboim, the writer Ilya Ehrenburg was made an honorary Red Army man of one of the crews of the tank brigade. Thus, began a correspondence lasting many years between Barenboim and Ehrenburg. In his memoirs People, Years, Life Ehrenburg wrote:
"… It is difficult for me to explain why I have such pleasure from letters from Ivan Vasil'evich [Chmil] and Alexander Mendelevich [Barenboim]. After all, I only met with them rarely, but their fate concerns me more than the fate of many people whom I have to meet too often."
After the war Alexander Barenboim graduated from the philological faculty of Odessa University and then taught Russian literature at the theater school in Odessa.
Letter of Alexander Barenboim to Ilya Ehrenburg
In a letter to Ehrenburg written on February 14, 1943 from the recently liberated Ukrainian city of Voroshilovgrad Alexander Barenboim wrote:
"… [I] consider that it is necessary to inform you about the terrible tragedy that took place in this city…. The majority of Jews were shot to death, while another part of them was barbarously annihilated…. Some of the men and women were placed in some specially equipped vehicles that could be hermetically sealed and they were gassed to death there. [Local] residents say that, after committing this terrible crime, the Germans proceeded to boast about it, saying that the new type of weapon that had been tried out on these unfortunate, defenseless people had produced excellent results. They had experimented to test the effectiveness on live people of this new means of poisoning! Where is the border of, where is the limit to bestial cruelty? Where can one find the words to define this ugly band, to express all the pain in our hearts and all of our thirst for revenge?!"
From Mordechai Altshuler, Yitzhak Arad, and Shmuel Krakowski, eds., Sovetskie evrei pishut Il'e Erenburgu(Soviet Jews Write to Ilya Ehrenburg), Jerusalem, 1993, pp. 123-124.