Anatolii Shtivelman was born in 1923 in Odessa. The family was religiously observant in the 1920s, but later it moved away from religion, because Iosif, Anatolii's father, had given up attending the synagogue, fearing repressions. In June 1941, Anatolii finished school, and several days later the Soviet-German War broke out. All of his class showed up at the local recruitment office and volunteered to enlist in the Red Army. Anatolii was rejected as too young (he was only 17 at the time), but he and his comrades were sent to dig trenches. A month later, both Anatolii and his father received call-up notices from the army. Iosif, as an experienced veteran (he had fought in the Russian Civil War), was dispatched to the frontline right away, but Anatolii was sent to undergo military training first. With his reserve rifle regiment, he traveled to Zaporizhzhia, eastern Ukraine. "We were not sent to the frontline," Shtivelman would later recall [O.93/6086], "rather, the frontline found us on its own." Indeed, in mid-August the Wehrmacht occupied the city. The recruits were evacuated eastward on foot, with no firearms or provisions, running the risk of being taken prisoner by the Germans at any moment. After traveling some distance from Zaporizhzhia, Anatolii received a uniform and weapon, and was attached to the 2nd Border Guard Regiment of the NKVD (political police) forces. With this regiment, he was sent to defend the Sinelnikovo railway junction. Because of his lack of military experience, his commanders put him in the third line of the defense, and this placement probably saved his life: The first two lines of the defense were completely annihilated.
Anatolii would recall the following year, from October 1941 to October 1942, as one long retreat, filled with chaos; dangerous, and sometimes downright senseless, reconnaissance tasks; the cruelty of commanders, and the constant risk of being taken captive by the Germans – who, incidentally, were much better armed than the Soviets. Shtivelman describes himself as a pampered, "sissy" boy, who was thrown into the hell of World War II and forced to harden. During the retreat of summer 1942, some of his comrades began to destroy their Komsomol [Young Communist League] cards and other "incriminating" documents. Shtivelman chose not to do so. Whenever his comrades inquired why he kept his Komsomol card, he would reply: "I have such a document with me, that, if the Germans were to undress me, it would be worse than any Komsomol card" 1. He realized that being a Jew in German captivity was much worse than being a communist. He vowed to himself that under no circumstances would he be taken alive.
In the fall and winter of 1942-43, Shtivelman took part in the Stalingrad operation. There, he, along with his comrades, realized that the Red Army troops now had better clothing than their German counterparts – and, past a certain stage of the operation, they were armed no worse than the enemy. He felt grateful to the workers in the rear, who were manufacturing all this clothing, aircraft, and tanks for the frontline troops. In Stalingrad, Private Shtivelman received his first military rank, that of a corporal. After the end of the Stalingrad operation, his regiment was left to rest, and in the spring of 1943, it was transferred to the area of the future Kursk Salient operation. In this operation, Shtivelman was already a platoon commander. In the fall of 1943, he took part in the crossing of the Dnieper River near Chernobyl. Somewhat later, he was to fight against the anti-Soviet Ukrainian nationalists, the so-called Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA).
In 1944, Sergeant Shtivelman was given the option of attending the Military Institute of Foreign Languages. He agreed, but his application was rejected – because of his being Jewish, as his commander explained to him confidentially. Instead, he was sent to a short officer training course in Alma-Ata (present-day Almaty, Kazakhstan), and spent the rest of the war serving on the Chinese border in Kyrgyzstan. By the end of the war, he had been awarded several medals, including one for the victory in Stalingrad.
After the war, Shtivelman tried to enroll in the Military Medical Academy in Leningrad, but was rejected. He graduated from the Odessa Institute of Food Industry, and went on to work as chief engineer at various food factories in various Ukrainian provinces.
In 1993, anxious about the rise of antisemitism in the former Soviet Union, Shtivelman immigrated to the USA. He settled in West Hollywood, CA.
- 1. [O.93/6086]