Sergei Karlikov was born in 1918 in Odessa, as Semion Karlikov. His father Nahum was a watch repairer. His mother Bella died in 1921, and Nahum married Bella's sister Berta. The family was religious. In 1932, Semion Karlikov went to the city of Samara on the Volga river, where his elder brother Isaak had settled before. Semion studied at a vocational school. Realizing that it was hard to live in Samara under a Jewish name, he officially changed his full first name, Semion Nahumovich, to the more Russian-sounding Sergei Nikolaievich. In 1936, Sergei Karlikov returned to Odessa, and in 1937 he enrolled in the Odessa Medical Institute (the present-day Odessa National Medical University), intending to become a surgeon. In June 1941, the Soviet-German War broke out, and Karlikov, who had completed four years of study, was certified as a "physician without a diploma" (zauriad-vrach). On July 23, Karlikov volunteered to enlist in the Red Army as a military doctor.
Karlikov began his active service in Transnistrian Moldova, near Tiraspol. He had to render medical aid in day and night conditions, often under heavy shelling and bombardment. On one of his first days at the frontline, he was wounded. In August 1941, Karlikov's regiment retreated to Odessa. Throughout the 76 days of the defense of Odessa, Karlikov was at the frontline. However, on October 16 the Red Army abandoned the city. Karlikov's regiment was transferred to the Crimea, and he was appointed head of the medsanbat (medical and sanitary battalion) of the 747th Rifle Regiment, which had to defend Sevastopol, the main military seaport of the Crimean Peninsula. His medsanbat was actually part of a military hospital that was located in the tunnels of the large prewar wine cellar of Sevastopol, under a layer of rock inside a mountain. The Siege of Sevastopol lasted for 250 days – from October 30, 1941 until July 4, 1942 – and Karlikov took part in the defense of the city throughout this period.
On June 30, 1942, the Soviet command suddenly left Sevastopol by sea (in submarines), abandoning the garrison. The last 60,000 defenders of the city were taken prisoner by the Germans. Karlikov was suffering from a head wound when he fell into captivity.
The Germans held a roll call of all the medical staff of the subterranean hospital, and demanded that the POWs identify themselves. Professor Kofman, the chief surgeon of the hospital, who had the rank of major, naively believed that the Germans would respect his status as a prominent physician and an officer. And so, he, in his excellent German, gave his name and rank, and added that he was Jewish. The Germans tore off his shoulder straps and shot him together with the other Jewish physicians and nurses 1. At the Bakhchisarai POW camp, the Germans continued screening the POWs for hidden Jews. Karlikov was not identified as a Jew thanks to his Russian-sounding full name. In late October or early November, he escaped from the forced labor site where the POWs worked, and managed to get to Dnepropetrovsk (now Dnipro, Ukraine). He went on to work as a doctor at a regional hospital (not in the city itself).
In February 1944, the area was liberated by the Red Army, and Karlikov, as a former POW, was sent to a Soviet filtration camp and investigated to determine whether he had collaborated with the enemy during his stay at the German POW camp. Luckily, the investigator of his case was a fellow Jew from Odessa, and he gave a positive assessment of the case and recommended that Karlikov be retained at this very camp, in the capacity of a doctor. Thus, Karlikov continued his military service at an institution belonging to the NKVD, the Soviet political police; his military rank of captain of the medical service was restored to him. Only in 1946 was Karlikov discharged from the army.
Karlikov was awarded the Order of the Red Star (in 1942, for the defense of Sevastopol; he received it only in 1945) and several medals ("For the Defense of Odessa" and others). After the war, he lived in Odessa, working as a doctor. In 1953, during the Stalinist anti-Jewish campaign, he was fired from his job. His Russian wife, also a doctor, was similarly dismissed. In 1954, both of them were reinstated in their workplaces. He continued to live in Odessa.
- 1. [YVA O.93/36002]