Khatskel Ioffe was born in 1923 in Gorki, Belorussia. Upon graduating school in 1939, following the pattern of his elder siblings, he left Gorki for Leningrad. He had completed two years of study at the Leningrad Polytechnic Institute when the Soviet-German war began. In July 1941, Ioffe came to a recruitment office and asked to be sent to the front lines. Instead, due to his technical background, he was enrolled in an artillery and engineering technical school in the Urals region. He recalled "We who only yesterday had been students at Leningrad institutes and universities studied to become heads of separate [military] units for artillery supply, responsible for accounting, supplying, repairing, and maintaining of infantry and artillery equipment and ammunition…."
[Ioffe's memoirs, in: The Book of the Living: Memoirs of Jewish Front Fighters, Prisoners of Ghettos and Nazi Concentration Camps, Partisan Fighters, Defenders of Besieged Leningrad], St. Petersburg, 1995, p. 380.]
It was only in February 1943, i.e. after the capitulation of the German 6th Army near Stalingrad, that Ioffe for the first time arrived at the front of the Red Army's counter-offensive. He served with the 4th Guards Stalingrad Mechanized Corps, where he became the head of the artillery supply unit for a self-propelled heavy artillery regiment (the so-called SU-122 cannons). Ioffe proceeded with this regiment from the North Caucasus to Central Ukraine. In April 1944, Ioffe was once again withdrawn from active service for retraining. He returned to active service in June 1944 – in Belorussia, from which he advanced to Poland, then to Germany. He finished the war in Berlin, where, like many other Red Army soldiers, he left his signature on a wall of the Reichstag. "Fate had it that I was still alive and even unscarred, although death was beside me: at the time of my incessant trips from the front to the rear and back there were times when I unintentionally crossed sectors of territory not yet liberated from the Germans; times when I came under heavy enemy fire or bombardment, and was even in the sights of enemy snipers" recalled Ioffe (Ioffe's memoirs, p. 381). During the war, Ioffe was awarded two Orders of the Patriotic War, one Order of the Red Star, and various medals.
During the war Ioffe changed his obviously Jewish first name Khatskel (Yekhezkel) for Boris. Khatskel Ioffe had had an elder brother Boris, a student of philology at the University of Leningrad; Boris was drafted into the Red Army in March 1943 after he finished a course for commanders of mortar platoons. The last meeting of the two brothers took place shortly before Khatskel was deployed on the Don steppes (near the North Caucasus) in 1943. The brothers swore that if one of them fell in battle the other would adopt the name of his deceased brother. Boris Ioffe was killed in combat near Radomyshl, west of Kiev, in December 1943 and was buried in a mass grave. Thus, Khatskel Ioffe became Boris Ioffe, officially changing his name in official documents. However, his family, his wife and surviving siblings – continued to call him "Khatse," an endearing form of his original first name.
"I was not the only Jew in my regiment, - recalled Ioffe. – For all my life, I have remembered the horrific fate of Nahum Zak, the chief of procurement for fuels and lubricants. One day, when we were fighting for Rostov, he received the news that all of his family had been murdered. He then lost his mind. I remember his been transported away in a medical vehicle"
(Ioffe's memoirs, p. 381)
All the members of Ioffe's family who remained in Gorki perished: his mother Rakhil, his younger sister Fanie, and his two-year-old brother Ievgenii were shot by the Nazis and their accomplices in October 1941. "Now I am weeping, a right word, I share it with you as with myself. I am weeping for the second time in [only] three years. I remember how I gave Fanele a ride on a sled... She certainly was a smart girl and, by now, would have been a young lady. For me it is not something new that mother, Fanele, and Zhenka [Ievgenii] are not alive. Because I knew this before. That's why I rarely write to Zlate [the elder sister] and to Dad and I feel sorry for them. It's very difficult for me to write". Ioffe communicated in a letter in October 1944 to his future wife to Leningrad. He continued: "In front of me – it is the heart of Poland, which we are liberating... I had an opportunity to go to the Academy in Moscow, but did not want to, because, firstly, I also want to participate to the very end in the defeat of the accursed enemy, I want to enter his land and take revenge for everything, and secondly, I have decided that I do not need to think more about studying, and that I have to work" (Galina Artiemenko "'I Want to Participate to the Very End in the Defeat of the Accursed Enemy': Letters from the Front on Love and War").
Despite being 46, Khatskel-Boris's father Arn-Itsik (Aharon-Yitzhak) was conscripted into a unit for military construction. He survived the war.
After the war, Ioffe graduated from the Military Academy of Communications and continued his military service (he retired in 1971 with the rank of lieutenant colonel). He was able to visit Gorki only in the early 1950s. While visiting his native town, he spoke with non-Jews, trying to learn about the murder of Gorki's Jews under the German occupation. He was subsequently one of the initiators of the erection of a monument to the victims of the Holocaust in Gorki in the 1950s.
After his retirement, Ioffe worked at the A.S. Popov Central Museum of Communications in Leningrad. In this city, he was the respected head of the non-official landsmanshaft or association of Jews from Gorki.
In 2002 Ioffe was robbed and killed at the front door of his apartment house in St. Petersburg.
His elder daughter Vera is living in Israel while his younger daughter Regina remains in St. Petersburg.