Vladimir Gelfand (Russian: Влади́мир Ната́нович Ге́льфанд) (born March 1, 1923 in the village of Novoarkhangelsk, Kirovohradskyi Raion; died in November 25, 1983 in the city of Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine) was a diarist and Soviet soldier in World War II.
He is known as the author of the diaries from the years 1941–1946 which were published in Germany and Sweden. The book with the diaries-notices of the officer in the Red Army Vladimir Gelfand: German Diary 1945–1946 (Deutschland-Tagebuch 1945–1946) – Notations of a Soldier in the Red Army has become the first one which is published in Germany.
From May 1942 until November 1946 he served as a soldier in the Red Army. He was a member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from the year 1943. In 1952 he graduated from the Gorky University in Molotov). From 1952 until 1983 he worked as teacher of history at the PTU.
The World War II rapidly changed Vladimir Gelfand's course of life. He saw many dead people on the ground. After serving at the front, Gelfand, a young Ukrainian Jew, witnessed destruction and death, experienced comradeship and treachery and discovered foreign places in occupied Germany. In his diaries form the years 1941 to 1946, Gelfand wrote of his relentless grapple with the hated military. He described the fights, the politics and occupation. He goes to the tailor, buys at the black market, visits pubs, learns how to take photographs and makes his own peculiar experiences with women. He is a sensitive observer and accomplice in one and he does not attempt to conceal his acts of revenge and looting. Gelfand's diaries are a unique chronicle of the early Soviet occupation of Germany.
A printed version in Russian does not exist.
Reviews of his books
"These are very private, uncensored experiences and sentiments of a Red Army Officer as an occupier of Germany. His account of the end of World War II in Germany and the German society that underwent its post-war crisis is also highly instructive. Apart from offering a different view on the spirit and the moral condition of the Red Army which was often represented in an exaggeratedly glorifying manner in the Soviet media, the diary contradicts to the commonly held belief that explains the military success of the Red Army by systematic repressions. Furthermore, the diary depicts the growing self-confidence of the front soldiers Stalin was so afraid of. Gelfand represents a certain group among the conquerors, namely the young officers who were sure that their front experience gave them the right to laugh at a dull instructor, to avert denunciation, to speak plainly to a high-ranged party functionary or to go their own way in occupied Germany. Gelfand’s experience with women also proves the existence of love relations between masculine conquerors and feminine conquered in 1945–46. The diary illustrates that German women searched contact to Soviet soldiers on their part, too, and that not only for material matters or in need of protection."
Dr. Elke Scherstjanoi, Institute of Contemporary History (IfZ), Munich-Berlin
"A Diary of a Soviet Soldier—it is the description of reality that makes it so impressive, a reality that had been disclaimed for a long time and of everyday life that had never been depicted. Despite all atrocities it is a very interesting book to read, though it appeared many years after it had been written. It is most gratifying that this diary eventually became available after 60 years, even if only in German yet, because this is a view of the events that was missing. This diary is the first book that presents Soviet vanquishers as flesh and blood people and helps to understand the inner world of Soviet soldiers. It will be difficult for Putin and his post-soviet guards to lock up this diary into the poison cupboard for anti-Russian propaganda."
Per Landin, Dagens Nyheter, Sweden
"Gelfand’s “German Diary 1945–1946” is a remarkable book in every sense. It is the unique eye-witness account of the liberation of Poland and East Germany by the Red Army. The only facts that Soviet soldiers were not allowed for security’s sake to keep a diary and that the Ukrainian lieutenant Gelfand had the courage to violate this prohibition is a very good reason to be thankful to the author. Although imperfect in certain respects, this diary surely refutes the assertion of numerous historical revisionists trying to represent the great victory of mankind over Hitler as a barbarian aggression of Stalin’s Henchmen against Western civilisation."
Stefan Lindgren, Flamman, Sweden
"Among the many eye-witness accounts of the end of World War 2 in Germany to emerge in the anniversary year of 2005 was the diary of a young Red Army lieutenant who participated in the capture of Berlin and remained in that city until September 1946. Vladimir Gelfand’s Deutschland-Tagebuch was the subject of widespread media interest with commentators generally agreed that his account forces a review of existing German narratives of the fall of Berlin and the perceived relationship of the Soviet occupiers to the German population at this time."
Anne Boden, Trinity College Dublin, Bradford Conference on Contemporary German Literature
"The Young Lieutenant’s Diary. This is a review of Vladimir Gelfand’s Deutschland-Tagebuch 1945–1946 which presents a unique insight both into the Red Army during the decisive battles for Berlin and into the German society of the period immediately following liberation. Gelfand, a Lieutenant of Jewish-Ukrainian origin, served from May 1945 until his demobilization in September 1946 at various locations around Berlin. His diary also permits a very intimate view into his personal actions, his feelings and his reflections."
Wolfram Adolphi, UTOPIE kreativ, Rosa Luxemburg Foundation
- 2002 — Publishing bbb battert-Verlag Baden-Baden, Germany, Tagebuch 1941—1946 (ISBN 3-87989-360-8)
- 2005 — Publishing Aufbau-Verlag Berlin, Germany, Deutschland Tagebuch 1945—1946 (ISBN 3-351-02596-3)
- 2006 — Publishing Ersatz Stockholm, Sweden, Tysk dagbok 1945—46 (ISBN 91-88858-21-9)
- 2008 — Publishing Aufbau-Tb-Verlag Berlin, Germany, Deutschland Tagebuch 1945—1946 (ISBN 3-74668-155-3)
- 2012 — Publishing Ersatz-E-book Stockholm, Sweden, Tysk dagbok 1945—46 (ISBN 9789186437831)
- 2015 — Publishing Rosspen Moscow, Russia, Владимир Гельфанд. Дневник 1941–1946 (ISBN 978-5-8243-1983-5); Publishing Knizhniki (ISBN 978-5-9953-0395-4)
- 2016 — Publishing Rosspen Moscow, Russia, Владимир Гельфанд. Дневник 1941–1946 (ISBN 978-5-8243-2023-7); Publishing Knizhniki (ISBN 978-5-9953-0437-1)