Iosif Iokhvedson was born in 1917 in Iekaterinoslav (present-day Dnipro, Ukraine). His father, Abram, was a photographer, while his mother was a homemaker. Iosif graduated from Dnepropetrovsk University and became a teacher of English. With the outbreak of the Soviet-German War in June 1941, he was drafted into the Red Navy. From 1941 till 1945, Iokhvedson served with the Northern Fleet. There, he acquired a new military profession: the radio operator gunner of a torpedo plane.
From January 1944 on, Second Sergeant Iokhvedson took part in combat in this capacity. Flying at a low altitude over enemy transports and combat ships, enduring a constant hail of anti-aircraft fire, he had to sink one of the vessels by launching a torpedo. From March till June 1944, his group managed to sink nine enemy ships and damage one transport. Iokhvedson was awarded the Order of the Red Banner. This was later followed by other military orders and medals.
Grigory Svirsky, a Russian-Canadian journalist who had himself served as a Red Army military pilot in the Arctic, wrote:
"When the Norwegian city of Kirkenes fell a week later [in October 1944], protocols of the interrogations of Soviet pilots shot down over Norway and taken prisoner by the Germans were found in a crushed pillbox. I saw these protocols in our headquarters. Almost every captured pilot was asked: "So what, are the Jewish torpedo bombers Iokhvedson and [Anatolii] Zavelband still flying? Well, well, we still have time to shoot them down." 1
Second Lieutenant Iosif Iokhvedson was discharged from military service in 1946. He settled in Dnepropetrovsk (present-day Dnipro). In his memoirs, Grigory Svirsky recalls an episode from 1946: Iokhvedson's attempt to enter the Moscow Institute of International Relations (MIMO), the university that trained future Soviet diplomats.
"I had just returned home and begun to attend Moscow University when the aircraft navigator Iosif Iokhvedson, with whom we had been friends back in the Arctic, came to me. It turned out that he had a dream: to study at the Moscow Institute of International Relations. The coveted MIMO! As a rule, the children of professional Party workers were admitted to the MIMO. Jews were never accepted. I told him as much, feeling embarrassed. 'I want to look them in the eye when they dare refuse me!' – the bearish, calm Iokhvedson boomed mockingly, putting on his blue tunic… The tunic rang like the harness of a wedding horse. Iokhvedson was a hero of the Northern Fleet, a torpedo bomber, and he had exactly a baker's dozen of battle awards. 'Forward!' he said quietly, in the tones of a pilot who realizes in mid-flight that the German convoy is eerily huge and that there is a hitch, 'Put on your awards, too. I am submitting my documents…' [In the Institute's office] a proper young man came to us after a while. An immaculate gray suit. Immaculately parted hair. A stern face… The young man was not going to lie or mince words. Never raising his voice, he said with pointed dignity: 'Only persons of the autochthonous ethnicity are admitted to our Institute...' It was then that racial quotas were applied to the diplomatic corps" 2
In 1992, Iosif Iokhvedson moved in Israel. He died in 2001 from a heart attack.
- 1. Grigory Svirsky, Vetka Palestiny, 1995; see http://www.jewish-library.ru/svirskiy/vetka_palestinyi/1-6.htm?page=2
- 2. Grigory Svirsky, Proryv, Ann Arbor MI: Hermitage, 1983, ch. 14; see https://www.rulit.me/books/proryv-read-145233-100.html