Shmuel Roikh (Rauch) was born in April 1918 in the town of Ungarisch Hradisch in the Austrian province of Moravia (now Uherské Hradiště, Czech Republic), to a family of Jewish refugees from Eastern Galicia. After the end of World War I, the family returned to its native town of Obertyn, near Stanisławów (now Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine). Following the postwar settlement, their area was included in the Republic of Poland, so Shmuel's first nationality was Polish. He received a traditional Jewish education, and from 1930 was a member of Hehalutz Hatzair, a leftist Zionist movement for adolescents.
In September 1939, World War II began, and Eastern Galicia was occupied by the Soviets. Under the Soviets Shmuel worked at a local bank.
With the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, Shmuel and his elder brother Avraham fled eastward. After many adventures they reached Stalingrad, and from there – the area of Pallasovka, on the left (eastern) bank of the Volga. There Avraham was drafted into the Red Army, while Shmuel remained on a local kolkhoz as an agricultural worker and, later, at a local stock-raising farm as a bookkeeper. Shmuel recalled that 90 percent of the workforce on that kolkhoz were Jewish refugees. 1
In July 1942, Shmuel Roikh was drafted into the Red Army. He was mobilized into a engineering battalion to construct various earthworks. The battalion was deployed between the Don and Volga Rivers, where in the summer of 1942 and the winter of 1943, the major Stalingrad operation was unfolding. With his battalion Shmuel dug trenches, underground bunkers (sleeping bunkers for soldiers; staff bunkers; bunkers for surgery and other kinds of medical treatment; underground baths, etc.), and graves for hundreds of soldiers, and so on – all under almost constant enemy bombing and shelling.
In 1943, zampolit (deputy commander of the battalion for political matters) Veksler recommended Roikh for two assignments. One was as a military tailor (among other things, in his civilian life Shmuel had been a tailor); the other was as a financial courier between the Don Front and local kolkhozes that supplied the front with food and various services. After Roikh agreed, his army service was easier than before.
Between 1943 and 1945 Roikh's battalion fought its way through the North Caucasus, Ukraine, Bessarabia, Poland, and Czechoslovakia. Roikh met Victory Day in Moravská Ostrava.
In 1944, after the area of Stanisławów was taken over by the Red Army, Roikh took a ten-day leave and went to Western Ukraine to find information about the fate of his family. He discovered that not a single member of his extended family had survived the German occupation. In 1945 he also visited the liberated death camp of Auschwitz and some other Nazi camps.
In October 1945, Roikh was released from the Red Army and in December he repatriated to Poland. In April 1946, he crossed the border to Czechoslovakia (since he had been born in the Czech lands he had little trouble receiving a Czech residence permit); from there it was relatively easy to immigrate to the Land of Israel.
Shmuel Roikh immigrated to Israel in May 1948. He died in 2007.
- 1. Shmuel Roikh, Korot hayai, Tel Aviv: Yaron Golan, 1996, p. 54.