Valentin Kofman was born in 1901 in Odessa, Ukraine, into a family of hereditary surgeons. His father, Solomon Kofman, was a pioneer in the rehabilitation of children suffering from bone tuberculosis. Valentin Kofman took part in the Civil War of 1918-20 in Russia, fighting on the side of the revolutionary Red Army. In the 1920s, he graduated from the Odessa Medical Institute, and in 1938 became a professor at the Department of General Surgery at the same Institute.
In 1939, Valentin Kofman was drafted into the Red Army. As a military surgeon, he took part in the Soviet invasion of Poland in September 1939 and in the Soviet-Finnish (Winter) war of 1939-40. Following the outbreak of the Soviet-German war in June 1941, he took part in the defense of Odessa. After the fall of the city to the joint Romanian and German forces in October 1941, he participated in the defense of Sevastopol, an important military seaport on the Crimean Peninsula. On several occasions, Kofman had to perform surgical operations under enemy fire. Furthermore, during the defense of Sevastopol he managed to compile and edit a collection of articles on field medicine, written by his colleagues and himself in Odessa and Sevastopol (it would be published on the Soviet side of the lines in 1943).
In early July 1942, the Red Army abandoned Sevastopol. According to the commander's order, the medical personnel was to be evacuated from the doomed city. Valentin Kofman was issued a boarding pass for one of the last evacuation planes to leave Sevastopol. However, he gave his pass to the nurse Kononova, who had just given birth to a baby, and stayed behind in the city with his patients. On the very day when the Germans entered Sevastopol, July 4, Valentin Kofman was shot by the Nazis, together with Mikhail Zelikov, head of the medical services of the naval base, and Moisei Zlotnikov, head of the 41st Military Hospital (both of them Jewish).
Kofman's grandson and namesake, Valentin Kofman, lives in Israel.