Gabriel Temkin was born in 1921 in Łódź, Poland, to an assimilated Jewish family. With the beginning of World War II in September 1939 and the subsequent capitulation of Poland to the German army, the Temkin family decided to flee to the Soviet-occupied part of Poland. In November 1939, Gabriel, his father, and his fiancée Hanna crossed the demarcation line into the Soviet zone. Later, when the Temkins encountered difficulties, his father returned to Łódź, while Gabriel and Hanna remained in the eastern Belorussian town of Gomel.
With the beginning of Operation Barbarossa in June 1941, Gabriel joined the home guard (opolcheniie), but on July 11 he was drafted into the Red Army. After basic military training, as a foreigner, Temkin was assigned to a labor battalion. In July 1942, while digging trenches in the Don area in the course of preparations for the defense of Stalingrad, he was captured by the Germans. Only Temkin's "Aryan appearance" spared him the fate of the other Jewish prisoners. Meanwhile, the POW camp where Gabriel and his comrades from the labor battalion had been imprisoned soon passed from the hands of the German army into the hands of their allies, the Hungarians. Gabriel was shocked to see that not only were the Hungarians combing the POW camp for Jews no less fervently than the Germans had done, but that they abused the POWs, especially Jewish ones, even more brutally than the Germans. Later, in the winter of 1944-1945, when Red Army soldier Gabriel Temkin was in Hungarian territory, he noted with satisfaction that he was taking revenge on the Hungarians for how they had acted.
In August 1942 Gabriel succeeded in escaping from the POW camp. Months in the occupied territory followed. Only in March 1943, during the Red Army counter-offensive from Stalingrad westward, did he reach Soviet-held territory. After interrogation by the Red Army's security organs, Temkin was rehabilitated as a former POW and assigned to the 458th Rifle Regiment. His first engagement in combat took place on the banks of the Donets River, east Ukraine. After his first battles he was cited for courage and transferred to the reconnaissance as a translator. Gabriel served in this capacity for the remainder of the war. More than once, he led a reconnaissance group that set out to capture a German soldier to gain important information. Two of his three military awards – a medal For Courage and an Order of Glory, 3rd class were awarded to him for this type of activity. His third award, an Order of the Red Star, was awarded for his "skillful leadership in combat" in Hungary in March 1945.
Temkin ended the war in the rank of sergeant-major (starshina). His parents and siblings perished in the Łódź ghetto.
After the war, Gabriel and Hanna settled in Poland. After the anti-Jewish campaign there in 1968, they left Poland for the USA.
Gabriel Temkin died in 2006 in Florida.
[inter alia, the book of memoirs Gabriel Temkin, My Just War: The Memoir of a Jewish Red Army Soldier in World War II, Novato, CA: Presidio, 1998, has been used]