Aron Gorodinskii was born as the youngest of eight siblings in 1923 in the shtetl of Bobr, northeast of Minsk, Belorussia, to the family of a village blacksmith. By the early 1930s five of Aron's siblings had left the shtetl for larger towns, while Aron, his brother Leyzer (who took over their father's smithy), and their crippled sister remained in Bobr, mainly to support their sick father and the rest of the family. In June 1941, Aron applied to the Smolensk Artillery School, but the next day, on June 22, Operation Barbarossa began. Aron succeeded in returning to Bobr, where his mother said to him: "You are a Komsomol (Young Communist League) member, so go eastward; we, father and I, cannot leave our daughter alone."1
A month later Gorodinskii found himself in the Volga area (southeast of Moscow), where he was sent to perform agricultural work. All his attempts to volunteer to join the Red Army were in vain. Therefore, he went to Krasnodar (North Caucasus), where his sister lived; with the "protection" of her husband, an officer, Aron was accepted to the local anti-aircraft artillery school.
After many transfers from one artillery school to another, in the summer of 1942, young Lieutenant Gorodinskii, a mortar-gunner by specialty, was sent to take part in the Rzhev operation – one of the biggest "meat grinders" of the Soviet-German fighting in World War II. There he earned a laudatory report in the Front's military newspaper, which, among other things, said: "scorning death, Lieutenant Gorodinskii ordered [Red Army] fire to be directed toward him." He did so in the realization that the alternative to his almost suicidal order was German captivity.2 In May 1943, Gorodinskii's battalion was transferred southward to Orel, where the Kursk Salient operation was in preparation. After a week or two of heavy fighting at the Kursk Salient in July 1943, the officers of Gorodinskii's mortar battalion were withdrawn from the front to serve as instructors at a training camp. He stayed there for almost two years – until the end of the war in Europe.
Along with other officers, Gorodinskii took this assignment as an insult. He and his comrades submitted one request after another, demanding to be sent to the front, but in vain, since not one of them was transferred from the "professors" to active service.
In the summer of 1945, Aron Gorodinskii was sent to the Far East, to fight against Japan. In 1956, he was released from the Soviet Army.
From Aron Gorodinskii's memories about the War
"Like many other junior officers, I filed a request asking them to transfer me to the active army and send me to the frontlines, but none of these requests were satisfied. Not a single officer from our regiment was allowed to go to the front.
After my fourth request, I was summoned to the Political Department and threatened with expulsion from the Party. I told them that I had joined the Party at the front near Rzhev, before going into battle, and that they were not authorized to expel me from the Party. I felt obliged to continue fighting and to take revenge on the Germans because I already knew that my parents and my young sister had been shot to death by the Germans, that one of my elder brothers had been killed at the front, and that a third brother had escaped from encirclement to his native shtetl, but had been captured by local politsais (collaborators with the Nazis) and killed. However, you cannot carry on long discussions in the army. Any conversation with you is short since you are obliged to follow the orders of the senior commanders."
- 1. From an interview taken in 2010. See https://iremember.ru/memoirs/minometchiki/gorodinskiy-aron-semenovich/
- 2. ibidem