Asher Teller was born as Usher Teller in the town of Dubno, Polish Volhynia in December 1924. His father Yosif (Józef) obtained Polish citizenship only in 1927 and was immediately drafted into the Polish army. The family was poor. Usher welcomed the Soviet occupation of this part of Poland in September 1939.
Under the German occupation of Dubno, Usher managed to survive the mass murder operation in August 1941, when 1,000 Jewish adult men were killed. During Passover of 1942 the family was resettled in the ghetto. In May 1942 Usher's siblings were killed during a mass murder operation in the town (when 6,000 Jews were killed). In the fall of 1942, when Usher Teller and his parents, with some other ghetto Jews, were sent to collect firewood in a forest 20 kilometers from Dubno, they fled and found a shelter where a sympathetic Ukrainian provided them with food.
In February 1944 the Red Army recaptured this area, and three members of the Teller family emerged from their shelter. Within a short time both Usher and his father (who was 44 years old, i.e., still of conscription age) received call-up draft notices and in March 1944 were drafted. Teller recalled that they were reluctant to join the army because that would mean leaving his mother Rokhele (Rachel) alone. However, when he received his Red Army uniform, he felt pride: "After all we had undergone, I felt that being a Red Army soldier meant being a free man," he wrote much later. 1 His father was sent to the artillery, while Usher (who was registered in the Red Army as Iasha, or Iakov) was assigned to the infantry. He became a soldier in the 131st Rifle Regiment, serving with the so-called "tank drops". The latter were units of infantry soldiers who rode into battle on tanks, and then dismounted to fight on foot in the final phase of the assault. Their losses were huge.
In May 1944, Teller was on the frontlines in Poland. His regiment advanced northward, in the direction of Eastern Prussia. He recalled that the fighting in Poland was heavier than in Prussia, and the losses were greater. In 1945, during a calm in the fighting, he injured his foot but, despite his lameness (he had to walk with a stick) he remained in military service. It was in Poland that Senior Sergeant Teller met Victory Day.
In 1947 Usher was demobilized from the Red Army. He, his father, and his mother repatriated to Poland, where they settled in Wrocław [Breslau]. Usher worked as a car mechanic. He joined the clandestine "Haganah" group, affiliated with the party of Left Poalei Ziyyon, and prepared to immigrate illegally to the Land of Israel. However, he succeeded in reaching Israel – with his wife, a survivor of the Warsaw ghetto, and their two children – only in 1957.
Usher Teller, who was known in Israel as Asher, died in Lod, Israel in 2009.
- 1. Asher Teller, Hanitzol mimishpahat Teler midubno, Raanana: Docostory, 2008, p. 60