Leontii Brandt in 1949
Leontii Brandt was born as Iona Brandt in 1924 in Tomsk (Western Siberia). His father Veniamin was a bookkeeper at a hospital. In 1937, Stalin's political police arrested Veniamin Brandt and soon executed him. After the beginning of Operation Barbarossa in June 1941, Leontii (who officially changed his name in that year) worked at various military factories.
In February 1942, Brandt was drafted into the Red Army. He was initially assigned to the 150th Siberian Volunteer Division, with which he underwent basic military training. Upon finishing this training, Sergeant Brandt was not sent to the front like most of his comrades, but instead to a school for snipers. In October 1942, he arrived in the area of Smolensk, western Russia as a soldier of the 336th Rifle Division. There Brandt volunteered for reconnaissance. Despite his frail constitution, he was accepted for this dangerous type of service because he had already served in a prestigious Siberian formation. A year later he was transferred to the 1st Ukrainian Front. There he was seriously injured while returning from a reconnaissance mission, when he stepped on a German Sprengmine (bouncing mine). After a long stay in the hospital, Brandt returned to the front, where he fought in Ukraine and in Poland.
In January 1945, Leontii Brandt was a member of the seven-man scouting unit that was the first to enter Auschwitz. He had not known about this death camp, but looking at the last surviving prisoners who resembled skeletons, at the barracks, the piles of shoes, the collection of prisoners' belongings, the bags with their personal documents and photographs, etc., he realized that something extraordinary had taken place there.
In May 1945 Brandt's unit was transferred to the vicinity of Prague. Thus, the war did not end for him on either May 8 or May 9, 1945 since he was engaged in fighting against Wehrmacht units that had refused to lay down their weapons after the official German surrender.
During the war, Brandt was awarded the Order of Glory, 3rd Class, and a number of medals and, immediately after the war, the Order of the Red Star. Among the postwar medals he received were one from Poland.
Leontii Brandt continued his military service after the war. He was demobilized in 1954 with the rank of major. He later graduated from the Tomsk Polytechnic Institute (University) and worked until the age of 80. He was an active member of the Tomsk Jewish community and died in 2018.