Arkadii Viner was born in 1925 in the town of Shargorod, southwest Ukraine. His father, Velvel (Vulf), was a tinsmith. During the Revolution, having come home from World War I, he joined the Jewish socialist Bund party, which had proved itself able to defend Jews from pogroms. He quickly assumed leadership of the local Jewish self-defense squad. Velvel's membership in the Bund – which was socialist, but non-Bolshevik – cost him dearly: in the 1920s, he was repeatedly interrogated by the GPU, the predecessor of the KGB, and was arrested in 1929. After his release from prison, Velvel Viner joined the local Jewish kolkhoz (collective farm). His son Arkadii finished seven classes of the local Yiddish school and continued his studies at a Ukrainian school.
Following the outbreak of the Soviet-German war in June 1941, the 16-year-old Arkadii, who had been mobilized into the pre-conscription reserve, was supposed to be evacuated eastward, to a larger town. However, the Soviet authorities failed to do that, and Arkadii, together with the other Jews of the shtetl, remained under Romanian occupation in the territory that became the Transnistria Governorate. He was imprisoned in the Shargorod Ghetto, and passed through several Romanian forced labor camps in Transnistria. From the end of 1941, Arkadii was a member of the ghetto resistance group. Among its other activities, the group supplied weapons to the local Soviet partisans; however, the commander of the partisan unit refused to let the Jewish group join his detachment. Only during the liberation of the area by the Red Army in March 1944 was the group recognized as a partisan unit, and Arkadii took part in the capture of former Ukrainian collaborators who were trying to flee westward.
Arkadii Viner describes the liberation of the Shargorod ghetto:
"About 3,500 ghetto inmates lived to see the day of their liberation. We gathered in the square, and the commander of the rifle regiment that had entered the town spoke to us. He was a Jew, a major, and he delivered his speech in Yiddish".1
The Soviet commanders tried to talk Arkadii into staying in Shargorod and continuing the hunt for collaborators and the fight against Ukrainian nationalists. However, Arkadii was adamant in his desire to join the battle against the Nazis and fascists on the front lines. Having volunteered for the Red Army, he was sent to a reserve regiment for training. The regiment's deputy commander for political matters suggested that he stay on at the training camp as a komsorg (young communist organizer), but Arkadii refused, saying: "The Germans have yet to pay me in full for everything [they have done]". Then, as a former partisan, he was attached to the 16th VDV (airborne forces) Division. In late summer 1944, after a brief parachute course, he was sent to Belorussia, where the Soviet offensive was going on. The commanders of his unit quickly learned of Arkadii's fluency in German, and the novice parachutist was transferred to a "separate reconnaissance and sabotage platoon", (aka a "special tasks platoon"), which was subordinated directly to the division commander. In March 1945, after retraining, he entered active service in Hungary, continued to fight in Austria, and ended the war in Czechoslovakia. His first raid behind German lines, on March 15-16, resulted in Viner and his comrades capturing two German soldiers and bringing them over as informers. Viner was awarded the Order of Patriotic War, 2nd class. In the following days, the "special tasks platoon" repeatedly engaged the enemy as a regular infantry unit, and Viner fought together with the rest.
After the end of the war, Viner served in Vienna, before being returned to Hungary. In late 1946, Arkadii Viner was transferred to the Soviet Union, where he resumed his service in the airborne forces. In1948, Arkadii was sent to a school for airborne and parachute forces. At this point, his military career came to a halt. As he would later recall:
"I was taken before a general, the school headmaster, who did not know what to do with me, [because] the 'struggle against cosmopolitans' was already in full swing, and he had received strict instructions not to admit Jews, as he proceeded to tell me directly. But I was a frontline soldier and a communist, the recipient of a military order and three war medals. The general, who still had a conscience, decided to take me on. However, he said: “The name Viner, this can fly under the radar, but how can I accept a person with such a patronymic [Vulfovich]? They will eat me alive for that'. Thus, he wrote down a new patronymic – 'Vladimirovich' – in my documents, and I was enrolled as a student. Two months later, when the Moscow commission of political workers from the Airborne Forces headquarters arrived at the school for an inspection, I was given documents and travel tickets back to my regiment without any explanations or apologies; I was expelled 'without further ado'. I understood the real reason for my expulsion perfectly well. However, under the circumstances, my only option was to stay silent".
In 1950, Arkadii Viner, already disillusioned with the Soviet Army, retired. He worked as a sports teacher at a rural school in Ukraine, later becoming a soccer trainer. In 1994, Arkadii Viner settled in Israel.