Khonya Brigadir was born in 1924 in Minsk. His father Abram was an unskilled laborer, and his mother Bertha was a homemaker. The family was Yiddish-speaking, but Khonya was sent to a Belorussian school. On June 22, 1941, the Soviet-German War broke out, and a week later Minsk was occupied by German troops. Khonya, his parents, and his sister were incarcerated in the Minsk Ghetto. His sister was killed in the first massacre in November 1941, and his parents perished in the ghetto in 1942. In early 1943, Khonya joined a group of young people who were planning to go over to the Soviet partisans. Initially, the partisans rejected young Jews, but Khonya eventually succeeded in joining the "Frunze" partisan unit. As a partisan, he took part in various sabotage operations.
In July 1944, the area of Minsk was liberated by the Soviets, and Khonya Brigadir was drafted into the Red Army. As he would later recall1, his partisan experience proved completely useless in the regular army: He was not familiar with their weapons, to say nothing of their tactics. For this reason, he spent several months in a training company, and only in the winter of 1944-45 was he attached as a machine gunner to the 334th Guards Rifle Regiment of the 120th Guards Rifle Division. With them, he took part in the fighting at the Narew Bridgehead, and later saw action in East Prussia. In March 1945, Brigadir was awarded the Order of Glory, 3rd class. The citation for the award says:
"On March 13, 1945, during the breakthrough of the enemy defense line in the area of Schönlinde [most probably, the village of Schönlinde in Kreis Heiligenbeil; present-day Krasnolipie, Poland], Comr[ade] Brigadir was the first to break into the enemy trench, under heavy mortar fire. With his machine gun, he suppressed the enemy's heavy machine gun and eliminated eleven Hitlerites, thereby safeguarding the advance of our riflemen" .2
Several days later, Brigadir was seriously wounded. After spending half a year at hospitals, he was discharged from the military because of his disabilities.
Khonya's brother Iosif, who had been drafted into the Red Army before the war, was killed in action. His second sister (who was not in Minsk at the time of the outbreak of the Soviet-German war, and therefore survived) married a Polish refugee in 1956. She was then "repatriated" with him to Poland, and in 1958 she immigrated to the USA. In 1981, following his children, Khonya also moved to the USA; he lived in Brooklyn, NYC.
Khonya Brigadir died in 2016.