Maks Fridman was born in 1904 in Smorgon (or Smorgonie, in Polish), in northwestern Belorussia. He was one of nine children of the tailor Mendel Fridman. In 1914, Maks's family moved to Minsk, where he studied in a traditional Talmud-Torah school. In 1918-20 he took part in the civil war in Belorussia as a Red partisan. In the early 1920s, he was assigned to the Baltic Fleet. Upon finishing his service in the Red Navy, Maks entered the Moscow State Automobile and Road Institute, which he finished in 1932 as an engineer with a specialty in repairing cars.
In 1939, after the Soviet annexation of eastern Poland (the Polish part of Belorussia), as a native of Polish Belorussia, Fridman was sent to Brest-Litovsk (Polish Brześć nad Bugiem), to help implement the process of Sovietization.
At the beginning of the Soviet-German war, Fridman lost his family – his parents and siblings were killed in Smorgon by the Nazis. After having been drafted into the Red Army, he took part in the retreat of the Red Army from Belorussia. Subsequently Fridman fought during the defense of Moscow. In 1942 he was seriously wounded, and after an almost a year-long stay in a military hospital, he was declared "partially fit for military service" Nevertheless, Fridman asked to be sent to the front. In 1943, he was first assigned to a car and tank repairing unit. At the end of the year he was appointed deputy commander for political affairs for the 1,200th Self-propelled Guns (anti-tank) Regiment that was deployed in Ukraine.
Despite his formal appointment as an officer for political matters, major Fridman took part in many battles as acting the commander of his regiment. He personally destroyed some enemy tanks.
Fridman fought in Ukraine, Bessarabia (now part of the Republic of Moldova), and later in Poland. He was killed by an enemy shell in August 1944, while fighting in Poland. His comrades buried him in a nearby Polish village. He did not know that at this very time he was being promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel and awarded with his second military order – in this case the Order of the Patriotic War 1st class. The recommendation for the order described Fridman's participation in the tank battle near Maciejów that led to his death: "When the machine of the 5th combat crew was exploded by a mine, Major Fridman entered another machine. He did not leave the field until the infantry broke into the enemy trenches… Major Fridman personally destroyed one enemy tank, 7 cannons, and much enemy manpower."
Maks Fridman finds a piece of Torah scroll at a battle field
In 1944 Fridman's regiment crossed the Dniester River into Bessarabia (now part of the Republic of Moldova). One day, Fridman's tank column was passing through the streets of a Bessarabian town, but suddenly stopped. Fridman got out of his tank and bent over the body of a German soldier who had a piece of parchment in his hand. This was a piece of a Torah scroll. The Communist and political instructor Fridman carefully removed it from the hand of the dead enemy soldier. Later he wrote to his wife:
"When we broke into the town, we literally rolled over German dead bodies. Suddenly I saw a piece of Torah near the dead Fritzes. I was literally stunned. Although it was in the midst of the battle, I stopped the machine, snatched from the dirty hands of a fascist this sacred symbol of the eternal life of the Jewish people, and I have preserved it carefully. I thought for myself, how great is the greed and the lust for robbery of this savage horde of Hitler's cannibals."
A short time before his death, Fridman felt sick. It was recommended that he be sent to a hospital. Fridman refused, saying: "Killing Fritzes is the best medicine against all diseases"
From: GARF 8114-1-125, pp. 252-253, copy YVA JM/26126