Pinkhas Bokshtein was born in 1924 in Moscow. There he finished a ten-year school. Despite being only 17, Pinkhas was drafted into the Red Army on June 23, 1941, the second day of Operation Barbarossa. However, a short time later he was released and joined his parents, who had succeeded in fleeing from Moscow to eastern Kazakhstan. He was drafted for the second time in October 1942. In the first half of 1943, Pinkhas finished a course for drivers of the ZIS heavy truck and, in the summer 1943, was assigned as a military driver and car mechanic to the 8th Company of Trophy [Captured Enemy] Armaments. In this capacity he fought in Belorussia at the end of 1943 (he was wounded in the fall of that year) and in 1944, when he took part in the takeover of Lublin, Poland in July and fought in Latvia and Lithuania. In 1945, he fought in Germany. At the end of the war, Private Bokshtein was awarded the medal For Battle Merit.
During his service in the Red Army both of his parents and his grandfather died in their Kazakhstan evacuation, probably from typhus. Bokshtein blamed the Nazis for their deaths.
Pinkhas Bokshtein was demobilized from the army in 1947 and returned to Moscow, where he worked as an economist. He died in 2002.
Jewish solidarity at the front
Pinkhas Bokshtein was impressed by the solidarity and mutual help between Jews at the front in 1944:
"Water there [in the trench] was knee-deep and kept rising. I was very cold and had a cough. Our new lieutenant, a Jew, a hefty man in a military raincoat, came up to me and asked why I was coughing so much and what was my last name. Upon realizing that I was Jewish, most probably from my last name, without saying a word, he took off his raincoat and covered me with it. This was a man who had never seen me before! He said: 'There are so few of us left.' Another thing: our unit had been reinforced with Poles. One platoon was supplemented by two Jews – partisans from two different partisan units. These people did not seem to be related to each other. But just look at their concern for each other. There were real human beings! They had experienced grief, and their hearts felt the pain of this grief. Their families had been slaughtered; both of them were alone now!"
From the letter of May 12, 1944 to his cousin, cited from Mina Lein, Pis'ma s fronta, Jerusalem, 2010, p. 43