Vladimir Gelfand was born in 1923 in the town of Novo-Arkhangelsk, near Uman, central Ukraine. In 1933 the family moved to Dnepropetrovsk (now Dnipro), which Gelfand later regarded as his hometown. With the beginning of the Soviet-German war in June 1941, Vladimir was mobilized for agricultural works but in August 1941, he was evacuated to the Northern Caucasus, where he was supposed to receive military training. In the Caucasus, in particular during his military training, he encountered antisemitism – both verbal and corporal, with his being beaten more than once.
In May 1942, Gelfand was drafted into the Red Army. After three weeks of training with mortars, he was assigned to active service. Gelfand was given the rank of sergeant and was appointed commander of a mortar crew. The period when he was drafted largely determined his first combat experience. Gelfand took part in the abortive second Kharkov operation, also known as the Kharkov disaster. During the first six weeks he was deployed at the front near Kharkov in eastern Ukraine, Gelfand's regiment was encircled by the enemy and destroyed. With remnants of his unit, he broke out of the encirclement in the Stalingrad area. After a short stay at the screening point, where he and his comrades were interrogated by SMERSH (the Soviet anti-espionage unit), Gelfand was assigned to the 15th Guards Rifle Division, where he served as commander of a mortar crew and also as deputy political officer (later the deputy commander for political matters) of a company.
In December 1942 Vladimir Gelfand was lightly wounded. However, the danger of gangrene setting in required a long stay in a military hospital. In February 1943 he was sent to an officers' course. In January 1944, he returned to active service as a lieutenant. He fought in Ukraine, Romania, Poland and Germany. He ended the war near Berlin. He continued his army service for an additional sixteen months, being demobilized in October 1946.
Gelfand kept a diary from 1941 to 1946. The Soviet command viewed the writing of a journal by military personnel during the war with suspicion. In many cases commanders confiscated and destroyed the field diaries of their subordinates. Since Gelfand wrote his diary openly and sometimes read his entries aloud to his comrades, he was taking quite a risk. The full text of the diary is extensive. Oleg Budnitskii, who wrote an introduction and comments to the full Russian-language edition of Gelfand's diary, noted that Vladimir Gelfand was a typical graphomaniac who dreamed in vain of becoming a professional writer after the war. Nevertheless, his diary is written with honesty and is credible, full of details, often graphic ones, and is an interesting historical document. Remarkably, its "German" part, i.e. that part relating to Gelfand's wartime and postwar service in Germany, was translated into German and published in Germany in paperback form (first edition: Gelfand W. Deutschland-Tagebuch 1945–1946: Aufzeichnungen eines Rotarmisten. Gebundene Ausgabe. [Berlin]: Aufbau-Verlag, 2005; paperback edition: Aufbau Taschenbuch, 2008). The diary reveals a naïve, far from bellicose Jewish youth who was quite unable to command others. (His subordinates openly ignored his orders.) However, he was firm in his principles and courageous, continuing to write in his diary even during enemy shelling, etc. Apparently, he had no friends, and his relationships with his comrades in arms were tense at best. The German part of his diary shows him to have been a constant womanizer, who boasted about his "romances" or "victories" over German and Russian women in Germany in 1945 and 1946. In contrast, among his more positive traits was his strong reaction to any form of nationalism and racism, especially of antisemitism, from which he suffered in the war years.
It should be noted that Gelfand suffered from antisemitism more during his stay in the rear and in the hospital than at the front.What upset him most of all was not the disgusting jokes of his comrades or occasional beatings from them, but the Nazi antisemitic propaganda leaflets that he saw several times at the front.
Vladimir Gelfand died in Dnepropetrovsk in 1983.
 Vladimir Gelfand, Dnevnik 1941-1946. Moscow: ROSSPEN, 2015.