The documentary cameraman Ilya Arons was born in 1910 in a Jewish family living in Tsaritsyn (present-day Volgograd, Russia), which lay outside the "Pale of Settlement" for Jews in the Russian Empire. In 1937, Ilya began to study at the Faculty of Camera Operators of the Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography (VGIK).
Following the outbreak of the Soviet-German War in late June 1941, Ilya Arons became one of a group of 70 teachers and students of the VGIK who volunteered to serve in the People's Militia, defending Moscow.
Shortly thereafter, Arons and several of his fellow students agreed to film their diploma projects while on active duty. In this way, he found himself on the front lines, recording the ongoing events with his camera.
In summer 1942, Ilya Arons was in the vicinity of Rostov-on-Don, which was reoccupied by the Germans in late July. Arons managed to break out of the encirclement and join the Black Sea Group of the Transcaucasian Front. He was then appointed assistant cameraman in the film unit of the front. In 1943, during the battles for Novorossiysk, he worked with the cameraman Arkadi Levitan.
His parents, grandmother, and sister with her small child had been relocated to Pyatigorsk, which was occupied by August 1942. Ilya, who was aware of the danger and stationed nearby, tried to rescue his family, but the German troops had cut off all access routes to the city. A month later, the Jews of Pyatigorsk, including the Arons family, were taken to the vicinity of Mineralnye Vody and murdered in an antitank trench.
In 1943, Ilya briefly returned to Moscow to defend the diploma of a "frontline documentary camera operator." His footage was incorporated into several famous contemporary documentary films, such as The Battle for the Caucasus (1943) and The Battle for Sevastopol (1944). In 1944, Arons returned to active duty as a credentialed cameraman, and was assigned to the film unit of the 1st Belorussian Front. Ilya Arons' subsequent itinerary can easily be reconstructed from the titles of his works: The Liberation of Soviet Belorussia (1944), The Approach to Warsaw (1944), From the Vistula to the Oder (1945), and Berlin (1946).
Ilya Arons met V-E Day in Berlin. The Jew Arons, whose entire family had been murdered, filmed the storming of the Reichstag, and was present at the signing of the German Instrument of Surrender. There is much surviving footage by Arons depicting the ruined city of Berlin. However, not all the images captured by his camera were released to the public. Thus, in April 1945 he filmed a V-2 rocket launcher that had been hastily abandoned by the retreating Germans in the woods near Stettin. The military censors classified this footage as secret.
In the course of the war, Ilya Arons was awarded the Orders of the Red Star and the Patriotic War, 1st Class (although he had originally been nominated for the Order of the Red Banner of Battle), in addition to several medals.
After the end of the war, Arons returned to Moscow, where he worked at studios that produced both documentary and feature films. In 1957, he made his directorial debut with the film The Road of Friendship. A year later, he became a camera operator at the Moscow Science Film studio.
Ilya Arons died in 1983.