Harry Glaser was born in 1926 in Liepaja, Latvia. The family was German-speaking. In 1932, the Glasers moved to Riga, where Harry attended a Hebrew school. He joined Betar, a rightwing Zionist youth organization. In 1940, Latvia was annexed to the Soviet Union, and Harry had to conceal his former membership in Betar. In June 1941, the Soviet-German war broke out. Along with his father and brother, Harry managed to evacuate, but his mother was unable to leave; she perished in the Riga Ghetto. The rest of the Glasers arrived in Kirgizia (Kyrgyzstan) in Central Asia, where Harry worked as a miner at a coal mine.
In July 1943, Harry (Grigorii in the Soviet documents) Glaser was enlisted in the Red Army. The Russian officer in charge of the new draftees recognized Glaser as a fellow miner and appointed him commander of a squad (otdelenie), despite his lack of military training. Glaser and his comrades were assigned to the 438th Rifle Regiment of the 129th Infantry Division, which had been decimated in the Kursk Salient Operation. During the train ride to the front, he was horrified by veterans' accounts of hand-to-hand bayonet combat with the enemy.
"As I listened, I thought to myself: 'I'm a Jew. For me, an encounter with the Nazi-German means either kill or be killed. In no way could I ever surrender'" - Glaser would later recall.1
In autumn 1943-1944, Corporal Grigorii Glaser fought in Belorussia, and then in Poland. In 1945, he saw combat in East Prussia and near Berlin. His last battle took place to the southeast of Berlin: it was the capture of the village of Halbe, during which he served as platoon commander. For that operation, Glaser was awarded the Order of Glory.
After the war, Glaser continued his service in the former German territories annexed to Poland, and later in Lithuania. He was discharged from the military only in 1950, and settled in Riga. In 1956, Harry Zvi, together with his brother and father, immigrated to Israel. In 1967, Zvi Glaser took part in the Six-Day War. In the mid-1980s, he immigrated to the USA.
Zvi Harry Glaser died in 2013 in Boca Raton, Florida.
- 1. Zvi 'Harry' Glaser, Survivor: A Latvian Jew in the Red Army in the Great Patriotic War, Bennington VT: Merriam Press, 2010, p. 72