Boris Vaitsman was born in 1925 in the village of Vyshcheolchadayiv in the Vinnytsia region, Ukraine. In 1937, the family moved to the nearby town of Murovani Kurylivtsi, where Boris finished school. His father Iankel worked as a trader, but the family maintained a rural lifestyle, owning a cow and poultry, and even raising pigs for sale. After moving from the village to Murovani Kurylivtsi, with its relatively large Jewish community, the family gave up the pig-raising business. Boris dreamed of a military career.
In June 1941, the Soviet-German War broke out, but Boris, who was only 15 years old at the time, was not drafted. On July 10, Murovani Kurylivtsi was occupied by the Germans. The Vaitsmans had failed to evacuate, and were now under German occupation. In August, Boris and his family were moved to a ghetto. In August 1942, Iankel Vaitsman, Boris's father, who was troubled by news of the mass shootings of Jews in nearby towns, asked a friendly Ukrainian peasant to transfer his wife and three daughters to the town of Kopaihorod, 35 kilometers east of Murovani Kurylivtsi. Kopaihorod was under Romanian occupation, which offered the Jews better chances of survival. On August 20, Boris and Iankel themselves were supposed to move to Kopaihorod – but, on that very day, the German SS carried out a mass shooting of the Jews of Murovani Kurylivtsi. Boris and Iankel managed to hide in a firewood cellar, and later joined their womenfolk in Kopaihorod. All the other members of their extended family were killed on August 20, 1942.
In March 1944, the area was liberated by the Red Army, and the Vaitsmans were prepared to go back to Murovani Kurylivtsi, but Boris went to the recruitment office in Kopaihorod and volunteered to enlist in the Red Army. On March 5 or 6, a column of the fresh recruits, still in civilian clothes, were escorted to Kamenets-Podolskii, where they underwent basic military training. According to Boris Vaitsman's later recollections, 1 the training was inadequate, but he had been taught to shoot back in his school days in the late 1930s, and the other skills of the soldier would be taught to him in the field by his senior comrades in the 37th Artillery Regiment of the 142nd Rifle Division. His first duty was that of a shell-carrier for 76-millimeter cannons, but later he was sent to a course in artillery reconnaissance, which he finished as a radio operator. In this capacity, Vaitsman traveled through southern Poland, Silesia, and the Czech lands. While in southern Poland, his unit was taken to visit the recently liberated Auschwitz concentration camp. The soldiers were told that the victims of Auschwitz were "our Soviet people," but Boris realized that most of the victims were Jewish. According to him, the images seen at the Nazi camp made the soldiers angry. Vaitsman was wounded on May 4, 1945, near Prague.
In the course of the war, Boris Vaitsman was awarded the Order of the Red Star, as well as some medals. After the end of the war in Europe, he was sent to a military school in Omsk, West Siberia. Upon finishing it, he served with the tank corps, but in 1951 he was transferred to the military construction units. Boris Vaitsman retired in 1983 in the rank of colonel.
- 1. [O.93/20062]